Ryga Festival organizers pleased with event

Second annual festival drew larger crowds

If you were in Summerland a few weeks ago, you probably noticed that there were more artsy things happening than normal.

Maybe you wandered into your favourite bakery and were treated to a sudden performance by those working there. Maybe you visited the Art Centre and suddenly found yourself in the middle of a hootenanny.

Whatever the case, you experienced just a taste of the Ryga Festival.

The festival, which ran from Aug. 30 to Sept. 3 this year, celebrated its second year in Summerland this year by offering more to the community that its namesake, George Ryga called home. And it couldn’t have gone better.

“We were very happy with it,” said Dorthea Atwater, one of the main organizers of the festival, adding that this year they doubled the amount of events and had double the budget from the first year. This, of course, meant double the work, but, according to Atwater, it was worth it.

Not only did Atwater feel good about the event, but the community loved it as well.

“People keep coming up to us and telling us how much they enjoyed it,” she said.

One of the biggest changes they made this year, besides changing the name of the festival from the Margainal Arts Festival to the Ryga Festival was bringing on Heather Davis as the artistic director of the festival.

Davies, who ran a workshop at the festival last year, likes to use festival such as thing to help develop the community resources.

This led to the development of such fantastic additions to the festival such as the Theatre Trail, where local businesses opened their doors to random acts of performance.

These were “a special thing that was in the community,” said Atwater. It added something to the festival that was in the spirit of George Ryga and helped bring the festival to people who might not otherwise have had a chance to experience it.

The efforts of those involved paid off. Attendance was up 20 per cent over last year and, while the bigger events didn’t sell out the way they had the year before, there was more for people to do and see and more people came out overall.

After taking a much deserved bit of time off, Atwater and the rest of her crew are already starting to think about next year.

One of the things they are hoping for is getting even more people from the community involved in the festival.

“There’s so much talent in Summerland,” she said. “We are going to try and get them to participate.”

Best of all, not only did the people of Summerland enjoy the show, but the Ryga family have enjoyed themselves as well.

Campbell Ryga, who has performed with his brother Sergei both years, has said he wants to bring his family down next year, even if he’s not performing.

“For him to feel good about coming back to his hometown is very important to Peter and me,” said Atwater.