The future’s so bright, we’ve gotta wear shades

Fresh off an eclipse viewing event that attracted twice what organizers envisioned, Osoyoos Desert Park is looking at even bigger and better opportunities.

“To my knowledge, there’s no other venue in the Okanagan that offers the advantages of the Desert Park facility,” said Bruce Fuller, President of the Desert Park Exhibition Society.

“We have 12 acres of level, manicured lawn overlooking a spectacular lake and valley, with existing covered grandstand seating, indoor banquet function space, parking galore and the support of a most vibrant community.”

That setting, he said, is ideal for events as diverse as concerts and music festivals to athletic events (such as a Highland Games competition) and maybe even a balloon fiesta.

The society has a fresh new website and a new tagline: “So much more than just horse racing.”

The society’s vision for the future is to remain true to its horse racing and equine roots — Desert Park is hosting the Oliver Riding Club in September — while developing other opportunities perfect for its massive, warm-air space.

The Society has twice hosted its Osoyoos Medieval Faire and is already hard at work with a third event scheduled for May 2018.

The success of its most recent medieval faire and Monday’s eclipse event suggests the site’s capacity to attract visitors from beyond the community is substantial.

“I was very pleased with the turnout for our Science of the Sun event at Desert Park,” Fuller said. “Our focus was to create a fun-in-the-sun environment whereby adults and children alike could learn and appreciate what this Eclipse of the Sun was all about.”

Participants came from as far away as Winnipeg and Montreal, with a large number coming from Oliver, Penticton and Salmon Arm. The Okanagan was well represented, as was the Lower Mainland and communities in Alberta.

The Society, Mr. Fuller said, managed to take what was expected to be a modest gathering of 250 and, over the final days of preparation, tweak its presentation to accommodate 500 or more.

“One of the biggest challenges we faced was being able to deliver the event after we sold out,” he explained. “With a little behind-the-scenes scrambling, our team was able to create a terrific time for many more. Dozens of safe, do-it-yourself viewing glasses and other amusing devices were created by guests and their children. These, and the viewing glasses we distributed, were well-shared.

“We had children creating little sun-powered ‘ovens’ from Boston Pizza boxes so they could make their own smores. It was edutainment at its best.”

The DPES board is also pondering a return to large outdoor music, hoping to bring a minimum 5,000 people to a single- or multi-night late summer event in 2018.

It has history on it side, Desert park being the site of very successful Brian Adams and Tom Cochrane concerts in years past.

That effort, Fuller said, might involve a corporate partner or promoter keen to make the most of the Desert Park facility.

“The possibilities are almost endless,” Fuller said.

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