7 Celebrations series continues at Vernon's SilverStar Mountain Resort

Lots to do at SilverStar

The Thompson Okanagan 7 Celebrations series continues at SilverStar Mountain Resort with a connection to Vernon Winter Carnival.

The name 7 Celebrations follows the 7 Affirmations for 7 Generations Thompson Okanagan Pledge that was inspired by Indigenous philosophy, stating that actions made today will have a lasting impact for seven generations to come.

“We will celebrate the traditions, stories and cultures of the region’s communities so they can live on for years to come,” a post on the Destination SilverStar website says.

Silver Star Mountain’s history reaches back centuries to include Indigenous use as a summer ground for hunting and berry picking.

On Friday, the opening day of carnival, an Indigenous showcase will be held at the National Altitude Training Centre theatre from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

The showcase will feature an evening of Indigenous storytelling, live performances, and film.

There will be a Q&A with filmmakers Mariel Belanger (Reminders For The People & Gone Fishing), Charlene SanJenko with Wayne Christian (Coming Home For The Children), and Kiri Geen (Kiri And The Girl).

A suggested donation of $7 will go towards fundraising for the completion of the film ‘Coming Home For the Children.’

An artisan market will be open before and after the event to browse Indigenous products and food.

On Saturday, gather in the Silver Star village for Winter Carnival activities and check out the work of the snow sculptors.

Throughout the late afternoon into the evening, the Apres Ski scene will be alive and well with the 7 Celebrations events as performers like Kentucky Eileen, Andrew Allen, Raquel Cole will be dispersed throughout the mountain’s restaurants and in the NATC theatre to provide free, live entertainment.

On Sunday, there will be an artisan market, Indigenous crafters and the BC Snow Sculpture award ceremony at noon.


Vernon Canadian Tire store to reopen Feb. 10 after suspicious fire in November

Cdn tire to reopen after fire

UPDATE 2:27 p.m.

There is an air of excitement at the Vernon Canadian Tire store as staff get ready to reopen after a fire in November.

Owner Jack D'Amico says the store will open Feb. 10.

“There's excitement in the store with the staff,” says D'Amico. “It's been a lot of hard work, but we are almost there. It was a great team effort. The staff has done miracles.”

D'Amico says staff were kept employed throughout the closure and will be returning to their previous jobs when the doors open.

More than 100 people work at the store.

“We had a lot of support from the community. It was overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like the store doesn't belong to me, it belongs to the community,” D'Amico said.

D'Amico said there will be a Back in Time Sale on opening day with all the promotions put on by Canadian Tire since Black Friday in effect.

ORIGINAL 9:33 a.m.

Vernon's Canadian Tire store will reopen next week in the wake of a November fire.

Owner Jack D'Amico confirms the store will open its doors to the public Feb. 10 after the Nov. 19 fire.

A suspicious fire broke out in the garden centre area outside the Village Green Shopping Centre business in the early morning hours.

The fire caused damage to a portion of the front structure of the store, with the entire store being impacted by smoke. The fire suppression sprinkler system was also activated, causing water damage.

Restoration crews were on site hours after the fire was extinguished and have been busy at the store ever since.

The auto service centre reopened on Dec. 5, with home delivery and curb side pickup being reinstated in late January.

RCMP have called the fire suspicious and are investigating the matter.

Okanagan Okie set to forecast spring at Thursday Allan Brooks Nature Centre event

Will Okie see shadow?

Vernon's prognosticating prairie dog may get to see his shadow tomorrow, and maybe not.

With an ambiguous forecast, sunshine could come into play – and that could mean either a long winter or an early spring, according to Groundhog Day lore.

Allan Brooks Nature Centre's Okanagan Okie will make his prediction Thursday at 10:15 a.m. at the centre on Commonage Road.

While our local marmots are still hibernating, Okie the stuffed mascot has no such worries.

He'll 'emerge' to forecast the weather, rain or shine.

And it could go either way, with a forecast calling for "mainly cloudy" skies, but a chance of some sunny breaks.

Should Okie see his shadow, that hails six more weeks of winter weather, but if he doesn't, an early spring is predicted.

The folks at Environment Canada call for temperatures increasing through the weekend, with the only chance of sunshine tomorrow. The rest of the week is looking pretty grey.

"We just want this to be a fun time to get people outside, enjoy some hot chocolate, a few laughs, sit near a bonfire and maybe get a chance to see some of the local grassland wildlife if they’re out," says centre manager Cheryl Hood.

The event "is about celebrating the changing of the seasons and celebrating each other."


Armstrong cancer patient praises care at Kelowna, Vernon centres

Life-saving advances

"It's amazing. Every time you think there's nothing more they can do, there's another advance that comes around and that gives you chances."

Powerful words from Armstrong resident Carla Schutte, a cancer patient since 2014.

Schutte has been a patient at BC Cancer's Kelowna treatment centre and the Vernon satellite centre since being diagnosed with adrenal cortical carcinoma, a rare form of adrenal cancer.

For four years, she underwent numerous surgeries and chemotherapy, but tumours continued to grow and spread, including to her peritoneum and brain.

Dr. Edward Hardy, Schutte's oncologist in Vernon, however, remained determined.

Carla's cancer has a specific mutation that is not often seen in adrenocortical carcinoma. He stayed up to date on the latest research and in 2018 found a new, global clinical trial studying this mutation.

Schutte says Hardy's reassuring presence helped assuage her fears.

During the height of her treatment, Carla was at the Kelowna centre nearly every week.

She says the personal connections made with doctors and nurses made all the difference in her experience.

Today, Schutte's cancer is stable.

She has 'graduated' to CT scans every three months, instead of every six weeks. Her grandchildren keep her busy and she’s thankful for the time she has to spend with them.

World Cancer Day is Feb. 4, a global uniting initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control.

It marks the second year of a three-year 'close the care gap' campaign centred on the issue of equity.

Meanwhile, the BC Cancer Foundation is fundraising for a new world-class systemic therapy suite in Kelowna that will increase its capacity to deliver treatments by 40% and bring more innovative, life-saving clinical trials to the Interior.

"They know how to take care of you, they really do," says Schutte.

City of Vernon Kindness Meters collecting significantly less money since program started

Kindness Meters dry up

City of Vernon kindness meters continue to help those in need – but not as much as they used to.

There has been a steady decline in donations since the five bright-orange meters were installed in the downtown core in 2016.

The meters allow people to donate spare change, which is then given to local organizations serving the disadvantaged or homeless.

Since 2016, residents of Vernon have donated thousands of dollars, benefitting a number of local organizations serving those in need. But the donations have slowed over time.

The first year they were in operation, the meters collected more than $1,800 in change. That number fell in 2022 to just $266.

“Many people in our community are looking for a way to give back, but they don’t always know how to do that. The kindness meter program is another way for that giving,” says Mayor Victor Cumming. “This program helps our non-profit community with much-needed and timely funds to help with services for those less fortunate.”

All money collected stays in Vernon.

Since 2016, donations have been distributed to the following organizations:

  • 2022 – Salvation Army Food Bank $266
  • 2021 - People Place Society $318.91
  • 2020 - Archway Society for Domestic Peace $389.16
  • 2019 - Vernon Community Dental Access Centre $711.10
  • 2018 - North Okanagan Youth and Family Services $672.47
  • 2017 - Upper Room Mission $1,798.68
  • 2016 - Salvation Army Food Bank $1,863.82

Vernon mother alleges high school boys grooming young girls as daughter undergoes drastic transformation

Mom alleges teen grooming

"She was like 12 literally a couple of months ago, playing with her Littlest Pet Shops, and now she's having sex," confides a Vernon mother who believes her now-teenage daughter was "raped" — and the mother alleges her daughter is not the only victim.

"It happened to my daughter's friend, too," says the mother, whose name we are withholding to protect the children involved.

The mom is speaking out about what she's worried is a "trend" across high schools in the city.

"Boys are preying on them by making them feel like, 'Oh I love you,' and saying 'You're my best friend.' ...The girls aren't used to that. The girls think, 'Oh my gosh, an older boy is paying attention to me, I must be pretty,' and that's how they are grooming them," the mother claims.

School District 22 acknowledges the incidents.

"In School District 22, we take seriously providing safety for all students and we are attending to this as we speak," Supt. Christine Perkins said in an email.

"These events took place away from school grounds."

The mother says her high school hopes for her daughter to experience "drama and all the fun things" quickly faded after witnessing the girl's drastic transformation to "fit in with these older kids." The mom says her daughter began vaping and using drugs within the first month of attending high school.

"The fact she is 13 and the boy is almost 17 legally makes it rape," says the mother, who is pursuing legal action.

Perkins encourages parents and families to speak with Vernon's Oak Centre for children and youth who have experienced abuse or sexual assault regarding victim assistance and to call RCMP.

Although the Oak Centre can't speak to individual cases, co-executive director of programs Micki Materi says "there is a program called Violence is Preventable or VIP, which provides healthy relationship and consent-based education programming in the schools."

The programming is available to elementary and secondary schools.

Materi adds: "We are working with the school district to promote that all students have access to this psycho-educational and prevention programming."

Youth who have experienced sexual assault or other violence are encouraged to reach out to Oak Centre for guidance and support at 778-475-2920.

Along with better sex education in schools, the mother also believes reintroducing junior high schools would go a long way to protect young girls from being "preyed upon" by older boys.

The case involving two minors is under investigation.

The age of consent to sexual activity is 16.

In some cases, the age of consent is higher (for example, when there is a relationship of trust, authority or dependency).

"Any sexual offences reported to police are treated seriously and each are investigated to the fullest extent," Vernon RCMP spokesperson Const. Chris Terleski said in an email.

City of Vernon removing more hazardous cottonwood trees from Kin Beach Park

More trees coming down

For decades, cottonwood trees lined the edge of Kin Beach Park in Vernon.

However, their age turned out to be their undoing.

As the huge trees reach a certain age, they become a hazard with the possibility of storms or strong winds knocking down large branches on park users below.

Over the past several years, the city has removed numerous trees that were deemed hazardous.

City officials say cottonwood trees have less stability than other mature trees.

The trees were planted years ago at the lakefront park because, if irrigated properly, they can grow quickly and provide shade on a hot Okanagan summer's day.

The downside is, they have a shallow root system and can pose a falling hazard during heavy winds.

The core of the some of the old trees can also rot, which decreases their strength.

Trees were removed in 2010, 2021 and 2022.

Work on removing the latest round of trees is expected to continue through Feb. 10. As the old trees are removed, new ones are being planted.

"To make sure we still have beautiful trees in our park, the Parks Department has planted other varieties of trees throughout the park as succession trees," says parks manager Kendra Kryszak.

Newly formed Vernon Veteran Society ready for action on housing needs

A voice for veterans

Finding homes for Vernon veterans is just one of the needs the newly formed Vernon Veterans Society plans to fulfill.

The society has been five years in the making, and after a weekend meeting to establish its board, members are ready to go public.

According to an advance press release outlining the society’s mission, “After five years plus of planning, preparing and strategizing, and attempts at engaging for the needs of veterans, a small band of spread out veterans and like-minded community members finally found their way to the same table.”

Society chair Terry Rysz says “we have been able to get seven very qualified people to become directors to establish our board, but there is room for two more.”

Rysz is hoping the two empty spots will be filled by people with a special skill set.

“We’d like to see some legal and accounting help, if we could,” he says.

The purpose of the society is to work with government, contractors and developers to "assist in the placement of veterans into the home ownership or rental market."

The society will try to obtain grants and fundraise on its own.

VVS also plans to partner with other societies and service providers to allow access to financial literacy training and other life services to Canadian Forces, RCMP or First Nations who are either veterans or serving members.

The society’s logo was designed with careful consideration of the work it plans to carry out.

Rooftops symbolize "safe shelter." The poppy, maple leaf, and eagle feather represent Canadian and First Nation contribution and importance.

The raised hands symbolize the many "helping hands" it will take to effectively bring change.

Night of comedy on tap with Big Daddy Tazz at Silver Star

Laugh with Big Daddy Tazz

Get ready for some big laughs with the 'Bi-Polar Buddha' Big Daddy Tazz at SilverStar Mountain Resort.

Tazz headlines a night of comedy at the ski hill on Feb. 18.

Tazz is dubbed "one of top comedians working today" by Train Wreck Comedy's Rob Balsdon.

"Tazzy is one of those comedians you just have to see perform live," says Balsdon.

"What's so special about what Big Daddy Tazz brings to the stage is that his comedy is family-friendly, and that's not very common anymore. He is the definition of must-see comedy."

Tazz has performed everywhere from client birthday parties to biker initiations.

He does what he loves both on and off stage – which is to make people laugh.

Tazz has been tickling the funny bones of crowds at fundraisers, corporate events, festivals and on television for more than a decade and a half.

He's appeared several times at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, Hubcap Comedy Festival, and the prestigious Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal.

Big Daddy Tazz and special guests will be on stage at SilverStar's National Altitude Training Centre Saturday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m.

Tickets are available online at www.trainwreckcomedy.com.http://www.trainwreckcomedy.com

Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association hotel stats show occupancy increase

Visitation numbers climb

New industry data from the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association shows visitation continues to rebound.

Hotel occupancy figures reveal the region had 54% occupancy in December, up 10% from the same month in 2021.

Revenue per room was $178, up 13%.

Stats for the most recent week available (Jan. 15-21) show 43% occupancy Sunday to Thursday and 64% Friday and Saturday – and 8% increase from 2022.

Revenue per room was also higher on the weekend; $60 a night during the week and $95 on Friday and Saturday. That's an increase of 22% over 2022.

Across B.C., hotel occupancy stats for the week were up 48%, and revenue per room was up by 92%.

December survey results on Canadian sentiments towards travel show 88% of B.C. and Alberta residents feel safe travelling to communities near them.

Eighty-four per cent of British Columbians feel safe travelling within the province, and 74% to other provinces.

Forty-five per cent feel safe travelling to the United States or internationally.

The latest travel intentions data, from November, showed a growing number of British Columbians planning ahead for travel, with 38% likely to take an overnight trip in province this year; 33% expect to travel within Canada; 25% to the U.S., and 21% internationally.

The Fast Facts tourism research summary "is an ongoing snapshot of the state of the tourism industry, particularly as it is reacting to a post-pandemic world," TOTA says.

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