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Penticton's CFUZ 92.9 FM is not your typical radio station. It doesn’t play typical radio music, it isn’t part of a giant consortium, and it isn’t privately funded. It's a true independent, run by volunteers and supported financially by sponsors and ongoing fundraising.
That’s why Sunday's day-long event at the Penticton Seniors Drop-In Centre was such a big deal. It was the reboot -- after a three-year pandemic absence -- of the station's hugely important fundraiser known as the Okanagan Vinyl Fest.
Would the vendors return? Would the crowd return? Would the concept of vinyl (records) and tapes and old-timey audio gear still be relevant?
As it turns out, yes, yes and yes.
PentictonNow stopped by the first Vinyl Fest since 2019 early Sunday morning, a time when early-birds pay a premium for first dibs, and found a packed room inside and a lineup outside. Just like the good old pre-pandemic days.
"I'd say this is a little busier than usual," said a smiling CFUZ president Jackie Del Rizzo, who personally handed out swag in the form of reusable shopping bags to the first folks through the door. "We're at almost 100 (people) at just 20 minutes after 9.
"We think there's a lot of interest after the break. There was even a great response from vendors, wanting to be back."
According to Del Rizzo, events like Vinyl Fest are even more important now that the station's Cannery Trade Centre space is expanding.
"A little scoop for you," she laughed, "is that we’re expanding. Terminal Bailiffs was next to us, but he's retired now. So we get to go back further than where we were.
"We're just prepping the space now. We really want to have two studios and more space for our transmitter and office. And two sound booths where one person can be on the air and another can be training.
"So this is really important because our rent is going up."
First in line for Vinyl Fest Sunday morning were neighbours, friends and admitted music lovers Kevin Dunn and Pam Fischer. And they were thrilled it was back.
"We traditionally come here every year," said Fisher. "We've been waiting since 2019 with baited breath."
We asked them about the appeal of vinyl now that smart speakers and services like Spotify and YouTube Music are so ubiquitous.
"The beautiful thing about records is the interactive relationship you have with music," said Dunn. "The act of putting the record on, putting the needle on."
"You read the liner notes and the artwork," said Fisher, who clarified that she's also into the smart speaker scene. "The sound is warmer and you listen to the whole thing. The deep tracks. And you may discover you like the deep tracks more than whatever you bought it for."
And both are fans of CFUZ, loving that the station offers up a distinctive musical environment.
Meanwhile inside the Drop-In Centre, vendor Don Dercole, who motored all the way from Vancouver for the event, busied himself applying makeup.
By 9:30 he'd achieved full impact -- Paul Stanley of glam rock band KISS.
"I’m a long-time rock and roll guitar player," explained Dercole/Stanley. "So in keeping busy, I do what I call KISS tribute work. I have an KISS electric band and a KISS acoustic tribute band. I also have a solo record.
"So in order to move my record, I do vinyl shows as well. My career as a musician is that you spend $100 to earn $80. But I love what I'm doing."
A bit less flamboyant was fellow vendor Rob Lewis of Oyama, who said this was his "third or fourth" year at Vinyl Fest. Lewis handles more mainstream rock than any other genre, but also carries stuff like country, folk and electronic.
"Condition is everything," he said, adding that he found a lot of his stock when people were unloading vinyl after the appearance of CDs. And he was happy with the business he was dong Sunday morning.
By Monday, Del Rizzo estimated the event had raised approximately $4,000 for CFUZ.
"I don’t think vinyl will ever really go away," she said.