May Days will not be held at Rutland Centennial Park this year, due to construction upgrades to the park. - Carli Berry/Capital News

Park upgrades in Kelowna cause popular May Days event to move

May Days will be held in Roxby Square and at the Centennial Hall

As construction begins at Centennial Park, the Rutland Park Society is celebrating its 60th annual May Days event in Kelowna elsewhere.

May Days, an annual event celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, but rides can no longer be offered at the park’s location as it becomes classified as a developed park.

Wendi Swarbrick, treasurer with the Rutland Park Society, is frustrated that May Days will have move, considering plans were already in the works for the event.

“It was my understanding that there was a verbal agreement that the park’s society would always be able to use it for May Days going forward, but the city has said that’s not the case and we can literally never use the park again for May Days,” she said.

“There is some money in the budget and they’re building a gravel walking path… how in the world are we going to affect a gravel walking path is beyond me,” she said.

READ MORE: Mayor defends work to improve Rutland Centennial Park

The construction for the third phase of the project is scheduled throughout spring and summer, so the society is unable to use it for May Days, she said.

May Days will take place during May long weekend at Roxby Square and in Centennial Hall, with vendors, wrestling and food trucks, as it has in previous years.

There’s a need for volunteers, as running the event for three days is a lot of work, Swarbrick said.

Coun. Ryan Donn said he and Coun. Charlie Hodge met with the park society, and that they should have been aware of the issue for months, since the budget process is very public.

“The midway can’t be on a park under development and historically midways can’t be allowed on fresh grass,” he said. “I think it would be great to have concerts in Centennial Park and they’d just have to ask staff, or a soccer tournament, or games.”

“They’ve known for years, they sold the park… and the park would eventually be developed,” he said. “Now it’s being developed by taxpayers dollars and now it’s going to be used year round.”

READ MORE: Kelowna’s Centennial Park road corridor upgrade begins

Chris Babcock, with the city’s events department, said sports fields are not designed to stand that type of infrastructure or traffic in the park.

The May Days rides will no longer be able to be offered at the park’s location on Rutland Road North in Kelowna.

“The Rutland Parks Society was notified and have been part of this process since the beginning with the planning and the purchasing of that park,” he said.

“Every year, we (suggested) that they start looking at other locations or formats for Rutland May Days because… construction could begin, and (construction) begins when there’s a budget for it.”

Last year saw crowds of around 10,000 attend the event, Swarbrick said.

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