by Keith Ferlin
A glorious celebration was held on George Ryga’s 81st birthday, on Saturday afternoon, July 27, at his former home on Caldwell Road.
Through the gracious invitation of the new owner of the Ryga heritage house, Dianne Hiebert, the George Ryga Cultural Society brought together friends and family of the late writer to share in music, stories, good food and wine.
We all felt George’s spirit as we gathered in the lower garden, now lovingly tended to by Ryan Hiebert, Dianne’s son.
What a blessing that Dianne had the vision and courage to undertake the required repairs and upgrades that were beyond the resources of the Society and to embrace the spirit of the property that first captivated George and Norma back in 1962.
As we sat around reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones, I felt a return of the spirit that was once a hallmark of gatherings at the Rygas’ home. This collaborative spirit with which George approached life and work had its roots in his Depression-era upbringing in the scattered farming community of Athabasca.
Then I thought how good it would be to extend his approach to our own community in Summerland.
If we all could provide support to the efforts of various volunteer groups such as the Philosophers Café, Good Will Shakespeare, the Friends of the Library or the Ornamental Gardens, the Art Gallery, to mention but a few — how much richer all our lives would be? That’s why I’d like to see George Ryga’s birthday observed around each July 27 with a festival celebrating him and our living artists.
The proceeds from the sale of the house now allow the Society to help fund such new initiatives for Ryga Week, and to continue support for the long-established George Ryga Book Awards.
The Ryga Society looks forward to working with various groups to celebrate the contribution George Ryga made to Canadian culture and to keep alive his progressive humanitarian legacy.
Keith Ferlin is the president of the George Ryga Cultural Society.