Each June, Penticton briefly morphs into something out of a movie set in the 50s and 60s…or perhaps a scene out of a classic car retelling of Fast and the Furious, starring Elvis. Yes, the King of Rock’n’Roll himself.
With the beginning of hot summer nights and festival season in the South Okanagan comes one of the first events out of the gate — the Peach City Beach Cruise. More than 800 classic cars descend upon the city, of just about any make and model, parading down Main Street while revving up their engines and making their way to Lakeshore Drive where the majority are parked for a weekend. Car enthusiasts can attend auctions, vote for their favourites, and after walking the length of the beach at Okanagan Lake, take a break with live entertainment in Gyro Park (entry fees help support numerous donations to local causes).
But also floating through the air — during some years, both events may take place on the same weekend — the sound of Elvis. A match to the cruisers around. You’ll know it’s time for the annual Penticton Pacific Northwest Elvis Festival by the random spotting of sideburns, sequins, and fully-costumed Elvis Tribute Artists (Elvi? Elvises?) around town.
Competition rounds take place in Okanagan Lake Park as the amateurs compete to win a spot in next year’s pro round, this year’s amateur winner was a 15-year-old ringer for young Elvis, and the pros compete for a spot to compete in Vegas. Yes, the Elvis Festival is a big deal. And even if he’s not your hunka hunka burnin’ love, exploring food trucks, displays of memorabilia, and grabbing a selfie with one of the artists is a great way to spend a weekend afternoon.
And if you need an escape from a busy downtown and prefer a bigger shot of adrenaline, a weekend of car culture can continue at the Penticton Speedway just a few minutes drive up Carmi Avenue. For 20 bucks, you can feed a family of four with classic concession food, then plant yourself in the stands for an afternoon or evening of racing.
The Hornets are loud, close your eyes and the sound is akin to supersonic bees flying by. Hit to Pass racing is just that: bump the car in front to gain the right to pass…if your wheels are still turning. And at certain races, be prepared for stress relief as cars bust up boats, trailers, and RV’s as the finale.
And who knows? Maybe the King himself is sitting at the back of the stands.