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One of Penticton's premier winter events finally returned Saturday from pandemic hibernation. And a whole bunch of people showed up at the Penticton Lakeside Resort to join in the fun.
Guests arrived early and kept on coming throughout the morning and early afternoon for the one-day, five-hour celebration of diversity -- and music and dancing and food and stories -- known as the OneWorld Festival.
The doors opened at 11 am, and the Resort's big East Ballroom was jammed a half hour later. It remained that way 'til mid-afternoon when the excitable crowd finally thinned out a bit.
"We even had people waiting for us as we were setting up," said a beaming Cherry Fernandez of organizing body South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS).
Fernandez estimated a crowd total of approximately 1500, equal to the numbers before COVID.
And Festival organizers didn't waste time between performances. In many cases, applause for the most recent act was still ringing out as the next hit the stage. The scheduling was hard and fast and those in attendance seemed to appreciate it.
Penticton's Lori Gordon was blown over by the event. As were her three granddaughters.
"They're half-Portuguese and they're Indigenous and they have Scottish heritage too," she smiled as the kids participated in a sing-along.
"This is amazing," said Gordon. "It's a great opportunity to bring people together and learn about each other's culture and share, especially in the winter when people need some sort of community.
"It's a great way to highlight Penticton and all the people who make up our beautiful city. It's so lovely. The food and the culture and the dancing -- the girls were really excited to come this year."
For Lynn Jackson and hubby Brian, the afternoon was a chance to grab some international food too.
"It's our first time at the Festival," said Lynn. "We just want to see the diversity in the community. It's so nice to see all these groups together, see their artifacts, their food, their culture.
"I love the vibe today. Lots of kids, lots of elderly people too."
Leena Lee of Osoyoos has been a Festival regular since it began a decade ago. Born in Thailand, Lee came to BC for schooling when she was 14, and today with her hubby owns two restaurants -- one in Oliver and the other in Osoyoos.
Saturday she was with a half dozen buddies, sitting in the crowd and taking it all in.
One of the most outwardly impressive acts of the day was the Ukrainian Dance Society of Calgary. Only a handful of performers danced at the Festival as most were saving their energy for an evening fundraiser at Cleland Theatre, but those who did seemed to defy gravity.
"At the moment we're supporting five families who've come to the south Okanagan from Ukraine," said Jennifer Martison of the "Ukrainian Nightingale Project," a local organization working the Dance Society.
"We're helping them with a way to get here and once they're here we're trying to find housing, food security, clothing, medical and translation needs."
For more info on the Ukrainian Nightingale Project, head to its website here.
Later SOICS' Cherry Fernandez seemed ecstatic, particularly after two years of virtual events.
"We're really excited," she said. "We were forced to go online during the pandemic, which was great for how we had to adapt. But being here in person has such a different feel."
Going forward, the next SOICS event of note is something called "Confronting the White Elephant: Exploring Anti-Racism," a full-day anti-racism forum scheduled for May 12. For more info on that and to register, turn here.