CHAMBER CORNER: A community-oriented global event

Chamber staff and local business owners attended an Information session on the upcoming inaugural race of Challenge Penticton.

Recently Summerland Chamber staff and local business owners had the opportunity to attend an Information session on the upcoming inaugural race of Challenge Penticton.

Hosted by the Penticton Chamber of Commerce, panelists discussed how this new race would change the face of triathlon in our region.

For more than 30 years the days surrounding the last Sunday of August have brought thousands of athletes and their families to the area, many of them staying right here in Summerland.

Because we are familiar with the experience there may be complacency and a feeling that this is just the same race with a different name.

It’s not.  Granted, the route is the same and many athletes and volunteers will have participated before.

But the mood and engagement behind the race is very different.  The Penticton Challenge website states that the international Challenge family events “focus on delivering the race of a lifetime to athletes of all ages and abilities, and creating a memorable spectator experience that captures all the excitement and emotion of this inspirational sport.”

A team of local Challenge representatives recently travelled to Germany to witness the 12-year-old Roth, Germany, Challenge race, hosted in a community with many similarities to Penticton.

They were really struck by the close community feeling of the race and the all out quirky fun in the many days surrounding the race.  They described it as a week-long event with a race as part of it.

They were also struck by the enormous number of people the race attracted.

Barely a decade old, Challenge Roth attracts more than a quarter of a million spectators and 5,000 athletes.

All in all, they described it as a very different feeling from the more corporate race structure we may have been familiar with in previous years.

While in Germany our race ambassadors also noticed how involved neighbouring communities became.  While we are not on the specific race route, we know from previous years that Summerland is very popular with athletes as a place to stay and train.  And in the coming years we will be working on how we can be more involved in the events.

This year, local businesses are encouraged to join in the festivities by decorating in Challenge colours and welcoming athletes.  They can also become Challenge Business Club members.

We can all participate through the ‘Adopt an Athlete’ program – a kind of pen pal experience where you communicate with your athlete to share info about the area and answer any questions they may have. You can also be part of the race experience by joining in with your adoptee at the Parade of Athletes. This is a fun way for Summerlanders to get involved immediately.

For more information about both of these opportunities, visit the race website at  www.challenge-penticton.com.

The Challenge race is a fantastic addition to our region’s growing bike culture and the vibrant economic benefits that sports tourism brings.

Let’s support this first in North America event.

We always appreciate your feedback.  Please contact me at  manager@summerlandchamber.com or our chamber president, Arlene Fenrich, at  president@summerlandchamber.com.

Christine Petkau is the manager of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce.