For those that don’t live here in wine country, you might be surprised to find out that there are other things that happen here that don’t involve wine. Shocking as that is, there are lots of fun local events that aren’t based on wine at all. Penticton has a Peach Festival and where I live in Oliver, there is a Sunshine Festival that also includes a parade. Since living in Oliver, I have attended the parade a number of times, walked in the parade twice, and always had a good time – even when it was raining. The kids get to sit there while parade people throw candy at them, various organizations put on displays, and the local fire department goes berserk hosing everyone down as they bring up the rear of the parade. It’s fun in a small town kind of way and I wouldn’t miss it.
But I’ve always thought that there has always been something missing from the parade. For a town that calls itself “The Wine Capital of Canada”, there has been very little of the wine industry represented in the parade. There are plenty of wineries and wine organizations (where’s OOWA?) that I think could be represented in some way. Like or not (there are plenty of locals who are not thrilled with the wine industry) wine is now a significant part of economic and civic life in Oliver and the south Okanagan. In 2011, Oliver had 3,543.18 acres of vineyards that represented almost 36% of the total vineyard production in BC, more than twice the size of the next region, which happened to be Osoyoos. 58% of the wine grapes grown in BC are within a 20 minute drive of Oliver in any direction. The economic impact of that is not small. For the province of BC, it’s a 2 billion dollar a year industry with 58% of it growing on the vine right here in Oliver.
This year was the first that I remember seeing any particular winery represented in the parade itself. I could be wrong in this since I was walking in the parade for the past two years and did not get to see the whole thing so please correct me if I’m wrong. This year, a grand total of 2 wineries participated in the parade. Big kudos should go to Kismet Estate Winery and Tinhorn Creek Estate Winery for bringing some barrels out to party, showing some civic pride, and representing the local wine industry in our own town for perhaps the first time.
To be fair, I’m not sure where the fault really lies with the separation between local civic pride and the industry that surrounds it, but I know it takes two to tango. It’s easy to sit in a winery office out in the middle of nowhere and feel far removed from the local town and its people. Most interactions and transactions occur with people who are not from here or who are in other regions altogether (sales agents, licensees, club members, etc). There can be very little connection to the local world from the winery’s end other than a few staff members, like myself, happen to live in town. Do the festival organizers seek out participants in the parade? I don’t know. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems that these are really two different worlds that just happen to share the same postal code.
As someone who lives in Oliver, Wine Capital of Canada, and is also part of the wine industry, that’s a shame.