Funtastic times in Vernon

Post by Kerri Brkich in

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Kerri recalls her Funtastic experiences of years gone by

My summer vacation begins tomorrow. Ten glorious days that will be filled with slowpitch, golf, socializing, and hopefully sun. The July long weekend kicks things off, and since the age of 19, that’s meant one thing—going home to Vernon for Funtastic. This annual slowpitch tournament and music festival was launched in 1984, and has grown into one of the premiere summer events in BC, and is now the largest slowpitch tournament in Western Canada.

The funds raised through the tournament are managed by the Funtastic Sports Society, and to date, they have contributed $1.1 million directly back to the local communities that support the tournament: Vernon, Armstrong, and Enderby. They have built countless parks, upgraded current sporting facilities, supported local charities and endowments, and added regulation ball diamonds to the local army base facility (DND), where the majority of Funtastic takes place. Their longer term goals are to advocate for healthy living and build a multi-sport facility.

The positive impact Funtastic has had on Vernon and its surrounding communities cannot be overstated. Last year, the 25th Anniversary, saw 216 teams in Vernon and another 84 teams in Armstrong and Enderby: more than 4,500 participants in total, plus their families and friends. The economic impact of hosting a tournament of that size is substantial, and the Vernon Chamber of Commerce estimates Funtastic brings in about $4.5 million—every hotel room and campground in the city is booked, and restaurants are filled to capacity.

I played in my first tournament in 1991, and can count on one hand the years I’ve missed since. Funtastic has grown from a mostly Okanagan affair, to include teams from the rest of BC, Canada, and the US. As the tournament has grown, so too has the entertainment lineup: in the mid 90’s, live entertainment at the DND beer garden began to take centre stage, and the music festival really took off.

Through the years they have hosted countless tribute bands, including Nearly Neil, as well as Canadian icons such as Trooper, 54-40, and Kim Mitchell to name a few. This year features Spirit of the West and Nazareth, and the beer garden will be packed with 10,000 people every night. To give you a sense of scale for the party, in three days, a full 45-foot semi-trailer of canned beer will be sold!

Thankfully, with all that beer, you still see very few problems. Security has been stepped up in recent years to reflect the popularity of the event, but most attendees take the spirit of the festival to heart—they just want to have fun with their friends and enjoy the weekend. In the many years I’ve gone I’ve only seen one, almost fight break out, and it was ended immediately by the friends of the would be fighters. (Said one such friend, “Dude, ABBA’s playing, you don’t fight during ABBA, chill out.”)

Let’s keep it that way. I remember when the Kelowna Regatta and Penticton Peachfest—both Okanagan staples—were cancelled due to dimwits acting on liquor infused testosterone. It would break my heart, and the hearts of many others, if Funtastic were to succumb to the same stupidity.

Funtastic is the highlight of the summer for those people lucky enough to get their team registered (it’s sold out every year for years). It’s a weekend for family, old friends, new friends, and complete strangers to come together and celebrate summer and the camaraderie of sports.

I’m looking forward to another year of enjoying my July long weekend tradition. Do you have any?

- post by Kerri

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