Castlegar’s New Cultural Festival: A Feast for the Senses

Aspen Switzer will be one of the musical headliners at The Kootenay Festival (Photo: Anthony Sanna)

“It’s going to attack all of your senses. We are going to have arts and food vendors and music. We are encouraging the arts vendors to be interactive, so it is not just people standing showing people the product, it is showing them how they make the product, getting interactive—there will be lots of energy there.”

That’s Audrey Polovnikoff talking about a new cultural festival in the Kootenays this summer. It’s called The Kootenay Festival—Let‘s Celebrate, and she’s the chair of the organizing committee.

Food from Different Cultures

“As soon as you come in you will be able to smell all of the food from all the different cultures,”she says, “whether it be Portuguese or East Indian or Doukhobor. And we are going to have two entertainment stages.”

The festival will feature food vendors from many cultures. (Photo: J Luoh, Flickr, Creative Commons)

The festival is sponsored by the Castlegar and District Recreation Department, the Castlegar Arts Council, and the Regional District of Central Kootenay. It will take place on July 16 near the site of the Kootenay Gallery and the Doukhobor Heritage Museum, across the highway from the airport.

Lots of Community Support

“In anything I have ever done or organized,” says Audrey, “There has always been two things that tell me I should move forward with it: passion and being terrified, those two together.”

The terror isn’t noticeable, but Audrey Polovnikoff is certainly passionate about this festival.

“The feedback we are receiving from the different cultures has been astounding,” she says.  “They get it. They say it’s about time that we celebrate all of us.”

“The Portuguese Society is coming in and they will have a food booth and they also have performers as well. With the East Indians we have a Diwali dancer, and they have a booth where you can get henna tattoos.”

There will be a large Doukhobor representation as well as First Nations groups.

“It’s not just about Castlegar,” says Polovikoff. “It is about the whole region and the tremendous cultural wealth that we have, the diversity, so we wanted to have an event that is about celebrating that.”

Choirs, Folksingers, DJs….Etc.

The two headline musical acts so far are singer-songwriter Aspen Switzer and Adham Shaikh. Also appearing will be Heavy Schtetl, the Rasberry Rockets, the Marimba Band, and the Visions of Peace Youth Choir. There will be more acts booked in the upcoming weeks.

Audrey Polovnikoff chairs the organizing group for The Kootenay Festival

There will also be a Battle of the DJs. “We wanted to bring the youth in. Being a DJ is an art in itself.”

Audrey says many people ask her why the event is only one day, and not a full weekend. She explains that she’s starting small, out of caution. “We want to make sure we are doing this top notch from the beginning, well organized, well laid out, learning from it, and then we would love to see this happen for a weekend.”

Adding Culture to the Recreational Mix

DJ and music producer Adham Shaikh will also be performing (Photo:

Audrey runs recreational and cultural programs for the Castlegar and District Recreation Department. She says having culture added to recreation planning is “very forward-thinking.”

Born in Dublin, Audrey grew up in Vancouver where she was a dance instructor. After she came to Castlegar she had a dance studio for many years.  “So I have always been a supporter of the arts in the community—that is my base.”

She says recreation centres are tending more and more to include culture in their mandate.  “The Rec Commission is made up of Area I and J and the City of Castlegar, and they are seeing the vision, and moving forward concentrating more on culture.”

The Signs of Success

How will Audrey know if this summer’s festival is successful?

“If the vendors that have taken part are excited about the people they have met, people they have conversed with. Having a good crowd coming to it and enjoying the entertainment and clapping with the singers and the band. Just seeing smiles on people’s faces. People will say, ‘Please do this again, it is a great place to spend the day with the family.’ When I see smiles, that is the commitment to keep moving forward.”

There will be crafts from many cultures, including Doukhobor handweaving (Photo courtesy of Audrey Polovnikoff)

Click here to find more information about the festival, including vendor booth applications.

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