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Event co-coordinator Echo Lyons of Ooknakane Friendship Centre surveyed the crowded scene Tuesday afternoon at Gyro Park and smiled.
"We never imagined it would be this big," she said. "Not at all. When we first started planning, it was a corner of the park with a couple of tents.
"And then it exploded."
Explode it did. Ultimately, several hundred people showed up at Gyro Tuesday to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day, a day for folks across Canada to recognize the culture and the heritage of First Nations peoples.
And there was plenty for them to do when they arrived. There were displays and tents and booths scattered throughout the park, some with food and others with games and crafts and more.
It was quite likely one of the biggest days at Gyro since pre-pandemic 2019. And Lyons gave plenty of credit to City of Penticton "community mobilizer" Jamie Lloyd-Smith.
"I actually went onto the City of Penticton website and they had a calendar, and I wondered what would happen if I tried to add an event," said Lyons. "I tried that and it went to the City and they phoned us and it just exploded. Jamie (Lloyd-Smith) from the City has been amazing. The mobilizer definitely mobilized."
Indeed, Lyons believes it may have gotten too big and too popular for Tuesday's three hour 3 pm to 6 pm time slot.
"Next year we might try for all day and then invite each school down during the day, and then everyone else can come down later on," she said.
"We weren't expecting it to be this huge," said Ulkatcho First Nation member and pow wow dancer Nicole Schellenberg. "We're so excited about coming back next year and making it ever bigger. We definitely want to make it a huge thing and make it more recognized in the future."
"There's way more people than I thought would show up," said fellow dancer Tyrone Kruger of the Penticton Indian Band. "i think it should be a stat holiday."
Penticton mayor John Vassilakhi called the event "fantastic" and said it took him back to younger days.
"I was a much younger man back then," he laughed. "It was the pow wow. They used to have salmon barbecues and all those good things. I used to take my kids to it. I was in my late thirties, early forties."
When the scheduled end time of 6 pm came and went, the crowds still remained. It was a heck of a Tuesday afternoon at Gyro Park.