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Snakebite Film Festival's wild opening gala in photos and words

Finally back from pandemic hiatus, the Snakebite Film Festival reawakened Thursday night with a wild 120-minute celebration spanning two of downtown Penticton's newest and trendiest eateries.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

The official hub for opening night, The Black Antler restaurant, was the scene of a 1950's-themed costume party that kept the joint absolutely packed from its scheduled 5 pm start time to just prior to 7 pm, when most participants strolled across the street to the Landmark Cinema for the first festival flick, the 1978 John Travolta/Olivia Newton John vehicle Grease.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

Not truly indicative of the films the inclusivity-centric festival has on tap, most of which have local connections and challenge the viewer with tales not normally seen at mainstream theatres, Grease was chosen anyway for its fun factor.

Indeed, much of the inaugural evening took its cue from Grease, including the 50's costume party and an awesome Black Antler sing-along to "Summer Nights" where many of the participants stood in one of two groups, facing the other. Like a dance-off, expect a sing-off.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

But all the pre-movie action wasn't confined to The Black Antler. Indeed, the night's MC and its lead performer Carl Meadows, executive director of Clinical Operations for Interior Health when he's not running festivals, stepped out for the first 20 minutes and headed just down the block to Pizzeria Tratto.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

There, he joined forces with celebrated local drag artist Rez Daddy (Madeline Terbasket) for a two-pronged drag attack that left the Tratto crowd howling.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

A half hour later, both Meadows and Rez had returned and were now dragging it up for the wall-to-wall crowd at the Antler.

As the evening moved forward, Meadows assumed the MC position and ran with it. The guy is a natural in front of an audience, especially one that had come specifically for the festival, the party and the message of inclusivity.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

We caught up with him later in his makeshift dressing room. And for what might be the first time we can remember, he was momentarily lost for words.

"It's unbelievable," he stammered. Then he just sat there smiling. And probably catching his breath.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

"Oh my god, it's amazing," he started again. "It's a huge crowd and now each of these people are going to tell five people, and they'll each tell five people, and so on.

"Next year we'll be even bigger and wilder. And it's all around the acceptance of diversity in Penticton, which is so important."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

We asked him for a final comment.

"I love this city, I do," came the reply.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

Mayor Julius Bloomfield, who hung around from start to finish and laughingly clowned around in a photo booth with both Meadows and then the night's disc jockey (Tim Tweed/DJ Splendid Bastard) too, believes Penticton is waking up.

"I think it's come a long way," he said. "I think it has a long way to go too, but I think it’s on the right path.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

"I've personally been committed to embracing all cultures in Penticton, and there are many. Whether it's a people, a religion, sexual identity, it doesn't matter. It's knowing we're part of a big society. If we get along and accept each other, then we're better off."

Local architect Cal Meiklejohn, at the event with wife Jacinta Ferrari, also believes Penticton is coming of age.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

"I was born and raised here and it's amazing to see how far we have come actually," he said. "Penticton was once like a lot of places in the world were, but we've become more open and progressive.

"You don't fight change. You embrace it. You can’t stop time and society."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

Meiklejohn and Ferrari danced the night away at last weekend's SOS Pride Winter Ball -- he dressed in traditional women's clothing and she in men's. It was a bold and impressive move.

"Both our kids are trans," said Meiklejohn. "And watching them struggle and go through that whole thing, well, dressing up as a woman for one night was easy as hell."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

And he's a huge fan of Meadows.

"Carl is a smart guy, an interesting guy," he said. "He could have picked anywhere to live. He's really spiced up our lives. I'd challenge anyone to say a negative thing about this event. Even if it makes you uncomfortable, that's probably a good thing."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> DJ, mayor, MC

For Rez Daddy/Terbasket, the smile said it all.

"I think it's really important to celebrate culture and film," they said. "And I think it's awesome that people are dressed up tonight too. We're just having fun together.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

"People are getting more inclusive and opening their eyes to discrimination. And they're accepting drag more and that's amazing."

Even the venue owners were psyched. Over at Tratto, a financial sponsor of the event, owner Chris Royal spoke of the performing arts and of Meadows himself.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

"I'm a recovering actor myself and my wife is a working actor," he said. "So when the opportunity comes to support the performing arts, I'm going to have Tratto lead the pack.

"And we're big fans of Carl Meadows. I've known him through other friends for a long time back in Vancouver, so it was great for us to be working together on something."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

The Black Antler's Lynn Pepin was buoyed not only by the festival, but by the huge crowd that filled her space and kept the cash registers ringing.

"They were looking for a place to have it and we like fun," she laughed, "so we offered our place up.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

"I think the festival is great for Penticton. We need more diversity and we need more fun, things to look forward to, get you out of the house, especially in winter when it's pretty quiet. This is a good night."

For more information on the festival, which runs all weekend, head to its Facebook page here. To buy a ticket, hit up its Eventbrite page here.



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