Vernon hosts Pride in Place event Thursday on queer history

QueerStories at museum

As part of BC Culture Days, Vernon's Museum and Archives will host an event to mark LGBTQ+ History Month.

On Thursday, Pride in Place: Historical Representation of 2SLGBTQIA+ Communities in the Okanagan will feature a pop-up exhibit, a reception and live taping of the Okanagan QueerStory podcast.

With funding from UBC Okanagan’s Partnership Recognition and Exploration Fund, the evening will be jointly co-ordinated and hosted by UBCO Okanagan Library, Special Collections and Archives, and the Museum and Archives of Vernon.

“One of the things we’re most excited about is the live taping of Okanagan QueerStory,” says museum program co-ordinator Amy Timleck. “And we’ll have some special guests here to help tell just some of those stories.”

Founded in 1994 by an American high school history teacher, LGBTQ+ History month recognizes the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and communities and acknowledges the history of gay rights and related civil rights movements. Now recognized in several countries, in Canada it is celebrated in October to coincide with National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11.

“For a long time, museums have been focussed on collecting and displaying certain kinds of items, documents, and stories that align with dominant perceptions of what history is and what is valued,” says curator Laisha Rosnau.

“However, other lived experiences, stories and perceptions are, quite literally, left out of the historical records and displays. Sometimes, the exclusion was intentional – in other cases, historically marginalized communities just weren’t really considered.”

The Pride in Place pop-up exhibit will be up for all of October and November. Rosnau is hoping this may inspire others to donate or loan items or documents that reflect queer history in the Okanagan.

“There is a rich history in the Okanagan – as there is all across Canada – of individuals who created community and fought for equal rights when they were not recognized. That history is as valid – and important – as more dominantly represented history, and has a place in every museum and archive.”

The event runs from 6 to 9 p.m. with an opening reception at 6 and live taping of Okanagan QueerStory at 7

Admission is by donation and open to all. Seating is limited to participants are asked to register via Eventbrite.


Walk of Terror returns to Spallumcheen's Caravan Farm Theatre

Walk of Terror returns

Double the thrills are coming to Spallumcheen's Caravan Farm Theatre for its Walk of Terror.

The professional theatre troupe presents two ways to "walk the WOT" this October.

One is a highly immersive ritual experienced through headphones while taking an interactive, spectacle-filled journey through the fields and forests. The other is a performance-filled celebration.

Both events feature the circus performance troupe Kinshira, who bring their fire spinning, stilt walking artistry to light up the nights.

For three weeks this month, audiences will explore the deepest, darkest corners of their own psyche in Sparagmos, an immersive audio experience, Oct. 11-28.

The first spine-chilling audio walk, launched in 2020 as a way to work within the PHO vaccine mandates, welcomed more than 1,000 people to the theatre over 10 days. The audience loved it so much that the company created a second sound walk, System Failure, in 2021.

"The success of System Failure has pointed the way to a whole new line of fall programming, and we look forward to exploring this immersive audio walk form over the coming years," says artistic director Estelle Shook.

For the final night of the run, the company celebrates the return of the crowd-favourite community processional and dance party.

With hauntingly beautiful scenes and creatures lying in wait ready to terrify, the processional includes as many as 60 participating volunteers.

"This year, we have people with an array of exciting ideas, as well as horses and the award-winning A.L. Fortune Drumline, so we know we have the materials to put something extraordinary together," says Shook.

"The objective is to be frightening, and if we can make people scream that's great, but for us, Halloween is about so much more than a jump scare," says Shook. "The autumn is a time of transition into the darkness of winter – it's haunting and goofy, beautiful and morbid. It's about the full range of emotions."

After the fright-fuelled walk, guests are invited to enjoy the concession and bar and dance the night away with the Calgary funk ensemble Freak Motif.

Visit caravanfarmtheatre.com for tickets.

ParentsVoice school trustee candidates skip Vernon forum, don't respond to questionnaire

ParentsVoice skips forum

Organizers of a school trustee candidates forum this week in Vernon say none of the three ParentsVoice BC candidates showed up for the event at Vernon Secondary School.

Those candidates also ignored a questionnaire sent to them by the forum hosts, School District 22, the district parent advisory council, Vernon Teachers Association and CUPE union local.

"We are disappointed three candidates have declined to communicate with us either by RSVP to the forum invitation or by completing the survey," said DPAC president Sarah Lauman.

A fourth candidate also declined to attend and didn't respond to the questionnaire.

"Many candidates say that transparency is important but at least four are not showing their willingness to be transparent," said Lauman.

She said it is important for parents "to get to know the people who may ultimately be our representatives and advocates for public education. Parents need to know their trustees are approachable and share their vision for their children’s education."

Fifteen candidates are seeking seven seats on the board. Four represent Vernon, one represents Coldstream, and two Lumby and Electoral Areas D and E.

Board chair Gen Acton was unopposed, as was incumbent Lori Mindnich in the Lumby area.

In Vernon, incumbents Jenn Comazzetto, Mark Olsen and Tom Williamson are being challenged by seven candidates.

They are: Andy Collins, Philipp Gruner, Sylvia Herchen, Jewlie Milligan, Vanessa Mitchell, Truman Spring, and Nellie Villegas.

Herchen, Milligan and Villegas represent the conservative ParentsVoice BC group, which has drawn attention for some candidates' views on sexual orientation and gender identity education in schools.

In Coldstream, incumbent Robert Lee is challenged by Sheri Minard and Kelli Sullivan.


Vernon's Climate Action Network ranks its choices for council, school board

Climate action endorsement

Vernon's Climate Action Network has ranked its choices for Vernon council.

The organization, which recently held an environment-themed all-candidates forum, took those performances and analyzed responses to a pre-forum Q&A and Vital Vernon questionnaire to score each candidate.

it also looked at experience, intention, and priorities mentioned by candidates in their campaigns.

It gave the highest scores Victor Cumming for mayor and Brian Guy for council.

The closest runners-up were council candidates Brian Quiring and Kelly Fehr.

Individual scores were not shared.

"However, we were really pleased to see that almost all other candidates show good knowledge of, and commitment to Vernon's Climate Action Plan. In the case of all incumbents who are running as council candidates, and most of the new candidates for council as well ... we feel the CAP is in safe hands if they are elected," the Climate Action Network says.

"As we all know, our climate is starting to change dramatically as tipping points are reached. We are now seeing unprecedented heat domes, wildfires and weather events that negatively impact our health and our livelihoods. The world needs to take action – there is no time left to waste."

For school board, it endorsed candidate Jenn Comazzetto, followed "favorable scores" from Mark Olsen and Philipp Gruner.

Dashcam footage captures near head-on highway collision in Enderby

Head-on barely avoided

A Salmon Arm resident captured a scary moment on dashcam Monday as he was driving near Enderby.

Glen Grimes was travelling north on Highway 97A near the Starlight Drive-In when a Toyota came straight towards traffic in the wrong lane.

The older model Corolla wasn't passing any other vehicle and almost crashed head on into an SUV in front of Grimes.

The driver of the SUV veered off onto the shoulder to avoid a collision.

"I was driving home to Salmon Arm from Armstrong and a driver in an older model Toyota was driving in the oncoming lane. It nearly took out the black SUV in front of me and just about collided with me," says Grimes.

This was not a case of (them) overtaking someone, they basically forced the black SUV onto the shoulder and only when they saw my car did they attempt a corrective action."

Grimes says the incident happened on the 100 km/h stretch of the highway, and traffic was moving at about the limit.

He was able pull close-up images of the Toyota from the video and says they were handed over to police.

He's even offering his own reward of $500 for information that leads to pursuing a violation against the driver.

"At speeds of 100 km/h, this could have easily been a fatality," he says.

Freedom rally counter-protester started confrontation that turned violent, says group

'Instigator' started it

Organizers of the weekly mandate protests at Polson Park in Vernon say a counter-protester was the one to "instigate" a confrontation that turned violent last weekend.

Korry Zepik says he was accosted and pushed into the street on Saturday and that when he and another man got physical, he was "slammed" to the pavement, leaving him bleeding from the head.

But, a man who gave his name only as Fred in an email to Castanet claimed Zepik "has been a provocateur who aggressively parades around in front of and through all of our ralliers, getting into our faces and spaces, provoking us with counter-signs that tower over ours, bumping into, pushing and tripping people, arguing, spraying women in the face with his water bottle, and physically injuring women.

"He has been blowing a horn that is intolerable to elders with hearing aids, and when politely asked to stop, he doesn't. He has pushed many elders out into traffic. He is constantly instigating trouble. He is an infiltrator and perpetrator, who agitates and creates tension at our rallies."

The Stand Up Vernon! steering committee member called for witnesses to corroborate the story.

"Please step forward and call the police to give them the information and provide a statement. It's important that we stand together on this! If you have seen anything or experienced injury or harassment from Korry on that day or any day previous, it needs to be brought forward and reported."

Another person at the rally, Tracy Desjardins, said: "Beaten guy was the instigator and jumped on the back and grabbed the face (mask), trying to pull it off and the man defended himself. I think the police should charge the beaten guy with assault."

The group continued: "Rally Freedom Fighters need to know that we have a right to be at the fountain and that we are not breaking the law with a peaceful protest...

"At any future rallies, if Korry is there, we are asking multiple people to please call the police saying such things as that 'he has caused problems in the past, he needs to leave, he is an instigator, I don't want him at our rallies, he antagonizes people, I don't feel safe with him at our rallies, I'm concerned for our safety and his, he stirs up trouble, he is a potential for problems, someone might get hurt, he gets people riled up, someone might fall into the traffic, I feel threatened by his presence.'"

It said harassment "could be something as simple as him walking by and bumping into you."

"What occurred last Saturday is unfortunate, but let's move forward in solidarity, play it smart, and act with integrity, supporting one another for the cause!"

Zepik, however, says he was pushed into the street and a truck had to veer around him.

He says when he moved farther away to a traffic island, he was confronted by a man and the two fell to the ground as he was punched and put in a headlock.

"Differences need to be solved with reason, not with violence," he said.

Vernon RCMP say they continue to investigate the incident.

Vernon mayoralty candidates spar on housing, crime, climate

Candidates spar on issues

Vernon's three mayoralty candidates laid out their visions for the city Tuesday night.

Incumbent Victor Cumming and challengers Scott Anderson and Erik Olesen were grilled during the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce forum at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.

Anderson said the last four years "have been anything but smooth sailing." He quoted an author who said: "a pessimist will complain about the wind, an optimist will expect it to change, but a leader will adjust the sails."

He praised much of the city's work but said "we just need to adjust our sails" on issues from red tape on housing approvals to the visibility of Vernon's mayor.

Cumming, who was the only candidate to stand during his opening remarks, said: "Most people think we are responsible for everything." He said local governments handle the 5 Ps – "pavement, plumbing, protection, land planning, parks and rec ... and we've added another one, promotion."

Cumming said the city has been successful, even given the barriers of the past few years.

"We've accomplished amazing things, the province is surprised by what we've done with attainable housing ... community safety, economic development, tourism."

Olesen, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2018, said he's now more ready and that issues that were on table four years ago are still prevalent.

"Housing is the most talked about topic I encounter," he said, pointing to declining vacancy rates and the need for higher density home that newcomers can afford.

On crime, Cumming said bylaw files have fallen by 58% over the past four years, mainly due to provincial supportive housing. Two bylaw officers have been added, and two more RCMP officers.

He said the city must continue to work on housing and supports to alleviate the problem.

Olesen said he's seen improvements, "but they are not making the community feel that way" when it comes to safety.

Anderson said nipping crime in the bud is a matter of stopping the "little things" before worse crime takes root... "keeping graffiti off the walls, cleaning up the city."

He said the "catch and release" court system must be addressed and is not the fault of policing, and that there is an immediate need for drug treatment facilities in the area.

All agreed relationship building with the Okanagan Indian Band is important. Cumming touted monthly meetings with band leadership, the development of Canoe Beach, and OKIB's recent purchase of 2,300 acres on the O'Keefe Range, much of which is within the city, leading to many shared discussions.

"The relationship is growing," he said.

Anderson noted the addition of an OKIB voice on the O'Keefe Ranch board, to which he is a liaison, while Olesen said Indigenous voices should be on as many city committees as possible.

On the slow pace of development approvals, Anderson said he would create a council-led task force of builders to address the issue during his first 30 days in office.

He said housing is needed "across the spectrum," especially for the "forgotten middle" who can't qualify for affordable housing, struggle with rent and "have no hope of ownership."

He would like to see a "pre-approval process" at City Hall to speed up projects and save builders money.

Cumming noted a consultant's review of the approval process has already led to changes that have seen "significant improvements in the last six months."

He refuted a claim by Olesen that building starts are down, saying 2021 was a record year.

Anderson likened the process to a "big syringe," saying: "It's a record at one end, but the process is still slow at the spout."

All three agreed to need for a new Active Living Centre that would replace Vernon's aging rec centre, and that costs, while expensive, will only increase over time.

Questioned about hurdles to stage public events in the city, the incumbents denied there is a problem, but Olesen said he has encountered them as board member with Vernon Winter Carnival and other organizations.

Both Cumming and Anderson touted the city's 1.9% infrastructure levy, which has one year left and has put the city in a strong position with aging infrastructure replaced "for the next 50 to 100 years."

Anderson said he would like to see an end to the "padding" of budgets so every department sees a surplus.

Cumming, denied the accusation by Olesen that he has encouraged sprawl, saying he has had "high energy" for smart growth, neighbourhood commercial areas and rentals units.

"Talk to single parents, young people who can't afford housing in our city," Olesen responded.

On climate action, Anderson said the city's plan is "so vague ... what does it really mean?"

Cumming said it is an award-winning plan, that the city is leading the way by reducing emissions and that infrastructure is being built to "manage wider fluctuations in weather."

But Anderson said real action is doing things like providing bins for neighbourhoods to reduce forest fire fuel, such as his company did last summer.

Olesen said he was disappointed to hear some characterize climate action as "cultish behaviour."

On public art policy, Anderson said one is "absolutely" needed in the wake of the mask mural controversy in Vernon.

He also said he supports development of the new cultural centre, but not the alternate approval process that was used to push it through.

The Vaults project taking shape in Vernon's changing north end

The Vaults taking shape

A large development in Vernon's north end is beginning to take shape.

Foundation slabs were recently poured at The Vaults project on the former Interior Auto Wreckers property on 34th Street.

The four-building development will include high-security luxury storage condos and will be followed by a commercial development called The Commerce.

"As we prepare the walls, the individual concrete wall panels are formed, poured, and stacked on the foundation slab," the company says.

A total of 94 panels will be formed to create the perimeter and interior walls, which will be lifted into place later this fall.

The project is part of a major overhaul for the Anderson Subdivision that will also include a new light industrial complex next door and road connection through to Anderson Way.

The Vaults principal Joe Mahovlich says the project follows successful launches in Calgary and Kelowna, and another is coming in Edmonton.

Next door, the Salt Centre will be built by Wesmont Group on 48th Avenue at the current site of Coldstream Truck Parts.

The complex is currently in development phase with construction to begin in 2023 and leasing opportunities in 2024.

Harvest Pumpkin Festival returns in Armstrong-Spallumcheen

Pumpkin Festival returns

Armstrong-Spallumcheen's 22nd annual Harvest Pumpkin Festival returns this weekend.

The annual festival hopes to gather residents in celebration of community spirit and local agriculture this Thanksgiving weekend.

"This year’s Harvest Pumpkin Festival is action-packed," says chamber president Sean Newton.

The event includes family favourites like the Scarecrows on the Street contest, artisan demonstrations, wagon rides, the Great Pumpkin Weigh-In, and this year, the addition of the Kinshira performance troupe’s vintage circus show Kiki the Eco Elf and live music by Niki Martinus.

There will also be self-guided tours of the North Okanagan Spallumcheen Barn Quilt Trail and return of the Armstrong Demolition Derby.

Proceeds from the pancake breakfast will support the Milky Way 4H Club, who lost their equipment and livestock in a tragic accident in August, says executive director Patti Noonan.

In addition to artisan demonstrations, there is a kids corner, make-and-take art classes, pumpkin bowling, the Armstrong Farmers Market, food vendors and a cycle kart demonstration.

"We are excited for everyone to come together and celebrate the harvest season the Armstrong-Spallumcheen way," Newton says.

The festival begins Friday and concludes on Monday.

$925,000 to improve student food and fee security in Vernon

Improving school equity

The Vernon school district has received $925,000 to improve student food security and alleviate fee vulnerability for less fortunate families.

SD 22 Supt. Christine Perkins said the district has identified four main areas and put those to staff and families for further input.

  • Food & Inclusion Programs (brown bag lunch program, top up to starfish back-pack program, fees for inclusion activities)
  • Regular school base for all students (school activity fees eg: field trips, instrumental programs, athletic programs, cultural events, shop fees)
  • Regular school vulnerability (breakfast programs, hot lunch program (eg: pizza Friday) for vulnerable students, life skills cooking programs)
  • Alternate school vulnerability (for alternate programs: Crossroads, ALP, Open Door) and other suggested possibilities)

The district has also received $175,000 to fund a district lead Early Learning and Child Care position.

Jennifer Friesen will lead and support early learning projects and initiatives, coordinate existing or new initiatives, and identify opportunities for expanded access.

Perkins said facilities and maintenance teams were busy over the summer working on a number of projects. Those include:

  • Eight childcare modules in the final stages for: Ellison, Alexis Park, Mission, and Harwood schools
  • Three classroom portables added, two for Seaton, one for Alexis Park
  • Lighting and HVAC upgrades at Hillview, Lavington, Charles Bloom and Alexis Park are expected to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 60 tons per year once complete
  • Various other renovation projects, including replacement of the gym floor at Mission Hill for first time in over 40 years

Fifteen new education assistant positions have been added this school year, along with four new student supervisor positions.

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