1. History


About The Festival

The Penticton Peach Festival started in 1947, with the Knights of Pythias and the Penticton Rotary Club participating.  Neil McKerracher was the first chairman.  The date was set for mid-August of each year when peaches would be ripe.  Outstanding personalities were invited and a queen and princesses selected.  Events included a rodeo, an industrial show, a parade, and a crowning ceremony.

Peachfest Historical Timeline



Prior – Penticton wanted a “day” to call its own, and there were many attempts to achieve this. Before the First World War the public wanted “something to do with horses,” and a “wild west” event. However, it was difficult for people to travel to the region because the Kettle Valley Railway was not completed and the roads were not good for travel. A “Sports Day” was created with horse racing and baseball, staged on Dominion Day. Later the Penticton Gyro Club added track and field events to the program and had one of Penticton’s biggest parades in 1935. Others believed Labour Day should be “the day” and it should be linked to the fruit industry.  However, those efforts were sidelined due to enlistments for the Second World War.

In 1946 the re-birth of the Peach Festival movement occurred.

Oct. 20, 1947

Representatives of four local service clubs (including Lodge 49 – Knights of Pythias, Penticton Rotary Club, Gyros, and Kiwanis) met with Reeve Robert Lyon to discuss the idea of a festival. The thought was not to make large sums of money, but of getting publicity for Penticton. The opening of the Hope-Princeton highway was two years away and there was no Rogers pass route to Calgary – getting tourists to Penticton meant urging them to take a long and difficult journey. Publicity was urgently needed to get people to the region to highlight fruit and tourism. Neil McKerracher was named president of the Penticton and District Peach Festival Association.

Nov. 12, 1947

A second meeting was held where it was determined the first Peach Festival should be held sometime between Aug. 10-20, “when peaches would be ripe.” It was also decided an outstanding personality should be invited to be the focal point of the festival. Alexis Smith, a movie actress born in Penticton, and Gerry Colonna, a comedian, would be invited to the first Peach Festival the following year. It was also agreed that a group of “princesses,” (one who would become Queen), should be named. The winner decided by whose name appeared the most on car-raffle tickets sold. Beverley Ann Young (afterwards named the first Queen Val Vedette for the peach varieties), Norma McDonald, and Moira Latimer were named the princesses. Following the first year, it was decided the candidates would be made by anonymous selection – as was done by the Wenatchee Apple Blossom Festival.

Aug. 18-20, 1948

The festival started out with the idea of having a rodeo, the Rotary Industrial Show (in Memorial Arena). As well, there was to be a parade, a crowning ceremony and series of both day and evening highlights. A midway was featured with nine rides and stage and radio entertainer Stan Francis was named the Master of Ceremonies. Among the other entertainment was a tumbling team, the Macintosh Girls Pipe Band, Lane Trio Acrobatic team, Teen Hoppers Folk Dancing Club, Baton Twirling, Penticton Band, the Tonasket, Wash., high school band, a dog show and outdoor dancing every night. The Queen’s float appeared in many parades that year in other cities, including the PNE, and won prizes and honours many times. It earned the community priceless publicity.


Square Dancers at 1st Peach Festival on Main St.
Photographer: Ed Aldredge


Peach Festival parade showing Hudson’s Bay float. On float: Beverly Ann Young (Queen), Norma McDonald (1st Princess), Moira Latimer (2nd Princess), Brenda Banner and Marlene Prentiss (flower girls), Billy Thomas (Page). Driver is Mark Hugo with Mr. Blackburn (Doorman at HBC Store).

Photographer: unknown

Aug. 17-20, 1949

The festival opens with the grand parade of bands and decorated floats vying for the coveted honour for best decorated float. A full list of big band music filled the entertainment schedule, along with the rodeo and Satan’s Hell Drivers – “daring and death defying Hollywood auto stunt men.” Crowds at the events were estimated to be 30,000 people at times.

Aug. 17-19, 1950

Peachfest featured daily harness racing in the program. New events this year were professional wrestling, a boxing exhibition featuring local and valley amateur boxers, and a fireworks display. President Frank Bowsfield reported a successful fruit growing season with 375,000 boxes of peaches and 34,000 of cherries shipped. The program for the event said, “Penticton has become comfortably prosperous … with the opening of new roads and districts almost overnight the city has become a tourist mecca.”


The B.C. Government Travel Bureau and Department of Trade and Industry produces a promotion film showing off the community. 



Queen’s float in Peach Festival parade.
Photographer: Ed Aldredge

Aug. 19-21, 1954

The program highlights the International Square Dance Festival, featuring a specially laid 16,000 square foot outdoor dance floor and callers from Canada and the U.S. During the festival a square dance workshop was to take place with the Wenatchee Apple Wheelers – wheelchair square dancing. 


Penticton Indian Reserve float in Peach Festival Parade.  

Photographer: unknown

August 5, 1960

Peach Queen float. L-R: Princess Vaughan Rutherford, flower girl, Princess Lynn Tedford, Queen Hallie Smith.       

Photographer: unknown


For the first time, Peachfest included an airshow featuring Tutor jet trainers flying in formation. The team of three jets, that flew their very first show that year, is known as the Snowbirds. The show, that also included ground displays, was deemed a success by the organizing committee of the air show.


What could be better than wet soft sand between your toes, warm water in your hands, music and sunshine? The Sandcastle Competition makes its debut at Peachfest this year, and has been held every year since.


Besides the annual favourite events, like the parade, the calendar of events this year include the Penticton Invitational Lawn Bowling tournament, the Peach Classic Triathlon, the ninth annual Jaycees Raft Parade down the River Channel and their annual Bikini and Mr. Muscle Contest at Skaha Beach, bungy jump demonstration and stunts, the Breakaway Junior Triathlon, Beach Olympics and music at the Gyro Park Bandshell.


Peters Bros. Construction, a long-time sponsor of the grand parade, elevated their commitment to Peachfest. This allowed Peachfest to bring in Canada rock icon’s Trooper that year. Both Peters Bros. Construction and the Penticton Lakeside Resort agreed to be long-term major sponsors. It is also the first year that the Sheila Bishop Memorial Wood Bat Slopitch Tournament becomes a part of Peachfest.


Tim Hortons, which has been a sponsor for several years, introduces Tim Hortons Country Night to the lineup of headlining musical acts.


This year the Penticton Peach Festival becomes officially part of the Northwest Festivals Hosting Group, only the second Canadian member to join. Peachfest joins the Seattle Seafair, the Portland Rose Festival, the Spokane Lilac Festival, the Wenatchee Apple Blossom Festival, the New Westminster Hyack Festival and more in the association. The association provides an opportunity for the festival groups to meet together, promote our festivals and share information on hosting best practices.


A study released by the City of Penticton states the festival creates a $3.6 million economic impact locally. A total of 94 per cent of out of town attendees who responded to the survey, held during the 2018 festival, say they found their Peach Festival experience great or good, four in five said they were very likely to recommend the festival.

*Details of the history (Prior and up to 1949 of Peach Festival) as written by Ed Aldredge in 1981. Further information was gathered from news articles and past programs*

Thank you to the Penticton Archives for researching, and providing us, information on the Peachfest historical timeline. The archives has hundreds of thousands of records, photos, documents, media sources, maps, and newspapers that can help answer your questions about Penticton’s past. For more information visit them by clicking here.


At Peach Fest 2024