Without new blood, Festival Society could fold

By on February 17, 2016
Anarchist Mountain firefighters made their way down Main Street past the attack zone for the water fight, which is in front of Osoyoos Home Hardware. The water fight is a popular highlight of Cherry Fiesta in July and gets underway just before the parade. (Richard McGuire photo)

The popular Cherry Fiesta could be endangered, unless the Osoyoos Festival Society is able to attract new volunteers. (Richard McGuire file photo)

Unless there’s an injection of “new blood” into the Osoyoos Festival Society, the volunteer group that helps organize some of this community’s most popular public events is in danger of folding.

“We need some new people to step forward … and if we don’t, there’s a chance we’re going to have to fold,” said Shirley Baker, who has been a volunteer with the Osoyoos Festival Society for the past five years and acts as the current treasurer.

The Osoyoos Festival Society was formed back in 1949 and has been organizing the Cherry Fiesta every year since.

The festival society is also responsible for organizing the annual Christmas Lite Up event as well as the Easter Eggstravaganza.

The society is a non-profit volunteer organization that is committed to organizing fun and seasonal events for the residents of Osoyoos and the surrounding area.

Each and every celebration is planned, organized and carried out by local volunteers, said Jessie Smythe, who has been a member of the organization for the past 23 years.

Activities for each event are very unique and different as the focus centres around celebrating three very special occasions – Easter, Canada Day and Christmas, said Smythe.

The current volunteer group is down to nine members and many of them have been volunteering their time for many years and a new group of volunteers is needed badly, said Baker.

“For about the past five years, we’ve had the same group of volunteers and it’s just not enough,” she said. “One of our most dedicated members is Sue McKortoff, who has been involved for many years, but she’s been very busy since becoming our mayor.

“Our past president, Nancy Katerenchuk, has a new full-time job and just doesn’t have as much time on her hands to help us out.”

When asked how dire the situation has become in trying to attract new volunteer members, Smythe hesitates for a brief second before saying, “it’s desperate.”

The Osoyoos Festival Society is holding its annual general meeting on Monday, March 7 in Room 1 at the Sonora Community Centre, starting at 7 p.m.

“We really hope we can get a new group of interested people to come out to our AGM on March 7 and join up as volunteers,” said Baker. “We really need an infusion of new people to join us.”

Baker and Smythe said the organization has been left with no other alternative but to come forward and urge more volunteers to join.

“If we don’t get any new people to join us, I’m afraid we’re on the verge of having to fold,” said Baker. “That would be just tragic as events like the Cherry Fiesta and Christmas Lite Up have become such a huge part of this community and continue to attract thousands of people each year.”

Current president Lyn Motkoski has “done a tremendous job since taking over” the top spot, but she leaves Osoyoos during the winter months from early October until early April and that means she’s not involved in organizing the Christmas Lite Up event.

“She’s done a fabulous job for living half the year out of town,” said Baker. “She’s also agreed to remain in charge of venues for Cherry Fiesta, so we really appreciate what she’s done as president.”

The lack of volunteers was a big reason the annual parade portion of the Easter Eggstravaganza has had to be cancelled, said Smythe.

“We just didn’t have anyone in place to look after organizing the parade, so we had to cancel it,” she said. “There’s only so much a small group of volunteers like ours can do.”

Becoming a volunteer member of the festival society does require a certain amount of commitment and hard work, but it’s not overbearing, said Baker.

“We basically meet on a pretty regular basis before the three events,” she said. “It’s not like you have to be involved all year or spend endless hours.

“What we really need is more volunteers to join so we can spread things around and give more people different things to do with each of our three events.”

Some of the current volunteers are getting up in age and looking to retire after dedicating so many years to the festival society, said Baker.

“Some of us are suffering from volunteer burnout to be quite honest,” she said. “We could really use some new people with new energy and some new ideas.

“It would be a real shame if events like Cherry Fiesta and Christmas Lite Up weren’t around anymore because they’ve become such a big part of what this town is all about.”

Any interested volunteers are asked to attend the AGM on March 7 or contact Baker at 250-495-6880 or Smythe at 250-495-3537.

KEITH LACEY

Osoyoos Times

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