Sometimes words cannot begin to describe an experience. As if the setting was not breathtaking enough on its own, add in nature, a birthday, music, dancing, history and poetry. Lightning Lake at Manning Park became the location for an event Manning Park has not seen the likes of before. Arts in the Park was true to its name and true to the natural beauty of a park and our talented Canadians.
The afternoon started of with a presentation by local trail expert Kelley Cook who has worked tirelessly to find, GPS, hike, mark and break trails across the southern interior near her hometown of Princeton. Cook was followed by the Princeton Community Band who played O Canada to the crowd.
The band led into the next act which was the talented Tiinesha Begaye. Begaye sang her unique blend of Native sounds accompanied by her hand drumming. She captivated the audience during her performance. Begaye won the best female artist at the 2010 Native American Music Awards and has local connections. Although, Begaye lives in Arizona her mother is from Keremeos and a member of the Chopaka band governed by the Lower Similkameen Indian Band.
A few dances from a small group of the Princeton Highland Dancers was next. They were followed by Heather Motut, Rachel Hunt, Chelsea Turner and Benjamin Wardle of River Road Theatre. This talented group sang through several ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ soundtrack tunes as well as some old favourites like Danny Boy and The Belle from Belfast City.
After River Road Theatre, a small taste of the Princeton Traditional Music Festival began with readings of historical Princeton poems by Rika Ruebsaat and songs by Jon Bartlett, Ruebsaat and their gang of merry songmakers. When they ended, Concertante Chamber players took to the stage. Liz Lapton on first violin, Sarah Anderson on violin, Martin Krátky on cello and Ashley Kroecher on viola turned the park into a place of enchantment.
“It was magic,” said emcee Barb Gagnon. “I was sitting there listening to this amazing music and looking out at the lake…at the canoes going by and at the birds above who seemed to be dancing in time and was overcome. It was very special.”
Organizer Del Hall and president of the Princeton Arts Council was thrilled with the outcome and is hopeful that more such events will follow. “This event was our first venture into Manning Park, but not our last. There were people there from Denmark, Sweden, Japan and Germany watching. The event reached out to people. One family who was camping in the park said it was the highlight of their holiday. This event contained all the right ingredients for a wonderful day – a perfect setting, wonderful music, a blue heron and fish jumping.”
Gagnon was happy to find out during the Princeton Traditional Music Festival that one American couple who happened to be having a picnic in the park ended up staying for not just the Arts in the Park event, but then followed the talent east into Princeton where they spent the whole weekend enjoying the festival as well. “The Arts in the Park was a great kick-off to the festival,” Gagnon said. “It was a really neat start to the whole weekend.” The event ended with a reading of Al Purdy’s poem Say the Names by Tim Hall.