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Pemberton Winterfest kicks off with Valley Exposure

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What: Winterfest
Where: Pemberton
When: Feb. 13-22

Call it the "Spud Valley Snowdance."

Portage Road in Pemberton will soon become the site of a massive street party as the village hosts the fifth annual Pemberton Winterfest, a cornerstone event of its winter season. Starting Feb. 13, Pembertonians and others will get a chance to see all the music, arts and foods that the valley has to offer.

The event first came to Pemberton after community members Paul Selina and Mark Blundell visited Heber, Utah, a town outside Salt Lake City that hosted Olympic cross-country events, during the 2002 Winter Games. They were struck by the celebrations being held in the town as the world's best athletes were gathering just one city over.

Michelle Murray, head organizer of this year's Winterfest, said the festival is an attempt to unite the community through an event that's got fun activities for the whole family.

"This is basically what Winterfest was created to do, to become a signature event for Pemberton during the Olympic Games," she said. "We try to make sure that we encompass everyone, so children, seniors, there's street hockey, art shows, a film festival."

At the outset there were only five people organizing the festival. Today, that number has ballooned to 15.

It's all volunteer, and organizers of this year's festival include Alexandra Ross, Pemberton's Economic Development Consultant, who will handle sponsorship; James Linklater will be coordinating food; and Peter Vandenberg, a board member with the Pemberton Golf and Country Club will be connecting people who don't know each other.

The preliminary fun starts Feb. 6, with the raising of the Spirit of B.C. flag up the last empty flagpole at the new Pemberton Community Centre. The flag will be raised to commemorate a province-wide initiative that seeks to instill pride in British Columbians and promote recreation, arts, culture and literacy.

A one-year countdown to the Olympics will follow on Feb. 12. There'll be a party at the old community centre in Pemberton Meadows featuring performances by the Coolers, the Lil'wat Nation's Iswalh Dance Troupe, fire spinners and an appearance by Pemberton mascot Potato Jack. Fireworks will follow that night.

The next night is the first official event of the Pemberton Winterfest. "Valley Exposure - the Best is Yet to Come" is a new event this year and it advertises itself as a chance for community members to showcase their organizations and the causes and projects they're involved with.

The event, which will also include a silent auction, takes place at the new community centre from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Money from the auction will go towards funding for a "Signature" Winterfest to take place during the 2010 Olympics.

Organizations such as the Pemberton Arts Council, the Pemberton Wildlife Association and the Pemberton Flying Club will have an opportunity to showcase their work and how people can get involved with them.

The next day is a big day for the festival. The Winterfest Opening Day Parade will start at Frontier Street and take a winding path around the village to the new community centre. Potato Jack promises to be there as well. That starts at 11 a.m.

The next day, Valentine's Day, will host a Winterfest Street Party with children's performers. It'll take place both inside and outside the community centre. A nighttime street party will follow that night, starting at 5 p.m. Performers will include 3 Legged Ginger, the Coolers, Kostaman and the Hairfarmers.

Admission for this portion of the festival is $10 for youth and $15 for adults. It's a licensed event and tickets can be purchased from the community centre.

A film festival showcasing local filmmakers will run from Feb. 19 to 20. There'll be a wine and cheese gala on the 19th with a presentation of The Collective and its well-received film, Seasons.

The whole festival is capped off with Winterfeast, a smorgasbord of culinary arts to be offered on its final day. Hosted by the Pemberton Rotary Club, chefs from all over the region will take inspiration from the Pemberton Valley and pair their dishes with fine B.C. wines.

The Chefs Culinary Showcase is a six-course meal served in a square-log inn that overlooks the Pemberton Valley Vineyard. Tickets for this feast are $125 and festivities begin at 6:30 p.m.

With a veritable hodgepodge of events to fill the festival, Murray has a big job on her hands, but she's excited to see the results of her efforts.

"We do hope to have it on during the Olympics," she said. "Giving people that are up in Whistler, if they want to continue on a little further and see what we have to offer, then that's definitely an option

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