There are many benchmarks in the Kootenays to mark the start of summer: GFI baseball tournament, hot weather, Canada Day and, of course, Christina Lake’s annual Homecoming Summer Festival.
This year’s festival, the fifth, will be held July 11 and 12 although there are a few events earlier in the week.
The homecoming festival began as a way of welcoming home people to the Lake. The idea first came from Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) Area C (Christina Lake) director Grace McGregor.
“She was inspired to start something in our community for the people here—not just the ones that live here, but the ones that call this place home,” said Cindy Alblas, Christina Lake homecoming coordinator, “even all our tourists from Calgary and other far off places that come here every summer. It’s become home for so many people.”
McGregor said she came up with the idea for homecoming because she wanted to have something to welcome everyone back from winter.
“We wanted to open up the lake and say, ‘Here we are again’ and showcase what we have here,” said McGregor.
She drew inspiration for the homecoming event from visiting family in the United States, where homecoming is very popular at schools there. She also found inspiration in the Hagood Hardy song called Homecoming.
“I’ve always like it,” said McGregor. “My kids were involved in university in the States where they had homecoming which brought families and everyone together. That’s what I wanted. I wanted us to celebrate the beginning of summer and the fact that everyone is back here and that’s what makes our community go.”
The theme for this year’s festival is “Community Shines.” The theme song for the homecoming is Come Home to the Lake.
“That song was created right here at the Lake,” said Alblas. “The lyrics really represent our community. ‘From far and wide, from past and present, we all come together to celebrate our community—Christina Lake.’”
Alblas said the homecoming is a great way to kick-off summer and showcase the community.
The festival begins on Friday, July 11 with a wine and cheese social and volunteer appreciation evening hosted by the Christina Gateway Development Association and Welcome Centre in partnership with McGregor.
“We have 30-plus organizations at Christina Lake and we honour and acknowledge them on the Friday evening,” said Alblas. “It’s a great annual event. Grace will be hosting the evening and she’ll be presenting each organization with tokens of appreciation. We’re also going to have a giving tree and a wishing well. It’s going to be a very special evening.”
The main festival day is Saturday with plenty of fun events planned. It all kicks off with a pancake breakfast hosted by the Christina Lake Community Hall Association and it’s by donation.
From 8 a.m. until 1 p.m., there will be a market at the community hall with paintings, wood art, pottery, crafts, jewelry, local produce, wood carving, Boundary Museum historical display, kids games and more.
In addition to arts and crafts, there will be plenty of great musical acts including Juno Shenstone, Jeff Holitzki, Mayanna and Kyra, Damien Alblas, and Amanda Thate at noon with a full concert.
“It’s pretty big,” said Alblas. “She’s bringing her entire band. We have lots of great local acts from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. It’s a full line-up. We also have over 70 vendors and artists coming. It’s huge. It’s our biggest year yet.”
At 5 p.m., the action shifts over to the public beach. A by-donation community barbeque goes from 5 – 7 p.m. hosted by the Christina Lake Fire Department with help from the Christina Lake Auxiliary.
“They help with putting out the salads, which have been supplied by every restaurant at Christina Lake,” said Alblas. “This is the first year it has not been a potluck. It’s just a by-donation community barbecue; come out and support the Christina Lake Fire Fighters Society.”
A family beach party will be held from 7 – 10:30 p.m. with glow volleyball and a glow station.
The grand finale is at 9:30 p.m. with a boat parade on the lake.
Alblas said there are already several boats registered for the parade but there is room for more. People have until July 9 to register their boats for the parade. The parade is open to both motorized and non-motorized boats.
There are performances in the evening as well at the public beach with acts ranging from the Hip Sisters and Rara Avis Dancers to Luminosity and Blackberry Wood, which includes local elementary school students from Christina Lake.
“The music is outside,” said Alblas. “It’s our first time ever. We have a covered stage outside and three huge tents for all the vendors. It’s a great line-up of musicians.”