A Little Taste of Tuscany...

Get ready to partake in a true feast for the senses, as the changing seasons usher in a new rhythm of cultural exposé to toast an array of fall occasions in the South Okanagan!  The renowned Downtown Community Market, every Saturday morning on 100-block Main Street, continues to hallmark the season’s calendar, as well as the Parrot Summer Nights, heralding live music every weekend on the Barking Parrot patio.  A colorful selection of fast-approaching culture, entertainment, food and wine events, will show off the best the South Okanagan has to offer in the coming weeks.  With events to stir the senses and sensationalize the seasonal experience, you can easily dive into the roster of fun-filled, dynamic, culturally driven ventures.  Come check out the fast pace action of the 12th annual Penticton Dragon Boat Festival, or get your funk on during the Penticton Jazz Festival, a three-day music spectacular.  Become a bohemian for the day at the ReImagine Art Festival, an artistic revolution of sorts that will see local artists take to the streets in a celebration of innovation and creativity.  And, of course, if your glutton for a little bit of countrified worldliness, to quench that insatiable appetite for fine wines and delectable foods, the Festival of the Grape will surely please your palate, followed by Oktoberfest, (great beers, great food and tons of fun - need we say more?) and of course, the celebrated Okanagan Fall Wine Festival, (assured to unravel you in a wash of cultural extravagance).

As the heat of the summer slowly fades into a new kind of nostalgic warmth, we turn our attention to the changing colors, the ripening grapes and the season’s harvest. In keeping with the fall’s food and wine agenda, The Penticton Lakeside Resort will play host to an exclusive alfresco dining experience this month, with “Taste of Tuscany,” happening this September 28th.  Featuring Executive Chef, Chris Remington, of the Bufflehead Pasta and Tapas Room, indulge in exquisite culinary creations paired by the best BC vintages amongst the sweeping panorama of Lake Okanagan and the breathtaking beauty of the valley.  Taste of Tuscany is truly the penultimate dining experience, exemplifying the spirit of Italy with real Canadian conviction.  A locally inspired five-course menu featuring organic produce direct from Valley View Farm, along with live entertainment will enrapture and enthuse.  Limited space is available, so book early. You can call to make reservations at: 250-493-8221.

This season take in all the valley has to offer, and indulge yourself in the valley’s authentic local culture and harvest celebrations!

-Elizabeth Cucnik




Subaru Ironman Canada This Sunday!

This Sunday, August 26th, all eyes turn to Penticton, as the Sports world bows its gracious head to Subaru Ironman Canada, one of the most grueling and yet awe-inspiring events in the world of sport.  Ironman triathlon features a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a complete marathon (26.2 miles) all in succession without break. Athletes have 17 hours to complete the event (from the 7 a.m. start until midnight).  Penticton’s Subaru Ironman Canada is the oldest Ironman race hosted on the North American continent and will see its 30th anniversary this year as it continues to be revered as one of the best Ironman events attested by its history and model course.  With a population of only 30,000, Penticton’s community contributes over 4500 volunteers, nick-named the “Iron Army,” and is generally upheld as one of the most athlete-friendly cities.  This year more than 2800 athletes will compete in the 30th annual triathlon.  The large field includes athletes from each of the Canadian provinces, 44 U.S. states and more than 25 countries.

Like many great things, Ironman triathlon owes much of its greatness to the humblest of beginnings.  In the late 1970s, a group of Navy Seals stationed in Hawai’i, argued the moot point of archetype athleticism, debating whether cycling, running or biking produced the best athletes in the world.  Unable to concede, Navy commander John Collins suggested they put their theories to the test, by hosting a race that would combine all three sporting activities in succession.  Hence, on February 18th, 1978, 15 competitors decided to put themselves to the test by swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles.   Collins was quoted saying, “Whoever finishes first will be called the Ironman," and thus, the Ironman Triathlon was born.  Of the 15 men to start off in the early morning on February 18, only twelve completed the race.  With no further marketing efforts, the race gathered as many as 50 athletes the following year, seeing its first female athlete, Lyn Lemaire, a championship cyclist from Boston, place sixth overall to become the first "Ironwoman.”   Following a ten-page article in Sports Illustrated, hundreds of curious participants contacted Collins about signing up for the next year’s race… and it has continued to grow in world renown ever since.

Interestingly, of all the athletes to have competed in 2011 Suburu Ironman Canada, 70% were men and only 29.9% were female.  Although the numbers of female athletes are growing, men generally dominate the sport.  Surprisingly, the oldest women to compete in the 2011 Subaru Ironman Canada was Madonna Buder at 81 years of age, while the youngest was Ciena Calavitta, 21 years of age, both of whom were from the United States.  While the top professional athletes exalt finishing times above and beyond what seems humanly possible, the female professional athlete’s finishing times fall short of their male counterparts by a mere half an hour.   However, the women of the Ironman Triathlon have inspired some of the most enduring and memorable races throughout the event’s history.  For example, in 1982, Julie Moss, a then college student competing to gather research for her exercise physiology thesis, collapsed just yards from the finish line after being the first-place hopeful.  Despite Kathleen McCartney passing her to take the women’s title, Moss nevertheless crawled to the finish line, a performance that was broadcast worldwide and created the Ironman mantra that just finishing is a victory.

Today thousands of athletes worldwide compete at an Ironman event each year, the vast majority aim simply to just finish the course, or set a personal record if they've raced this distance before. People completing the event within the strict timeline, are thus recognized as "Ironmen" or “Ironwomen.”   Apart from the Ironman mantra, many professional and amateur athletes alike compete around the world at Ironman Triathlon races to qualify for the annual Ironman World Championships.   Although much has changed since the event’s humble beginnings with Navy commander John Collins and his group of sporting enthusiasts, the Ironman format remains constant, and with 28 full-distance races worldwide and more than 25,000 athletes, the franchise and brand has truly become a worldwide phenomenon.



The Greater Our Sociability, The Greater Our Social Alienation


While summer moves to press upon us a deeper experience of summertime as we near the peak of its season, we find ourselves teetering two ends of a social spectrum.  One such end embraces the en mass ethos of summertime crowds, and the communal energy of public forums; the other finds reproach and social martyrdom by private retreat.   It seems whichever end of the spectrum one familiarizes with has more to do with personality and character disposition than anything else.  Or does it?  While society at large has generally become more obnoxious and overbearing, more laissez-faire and consequently, more pervasive, we are beginning to see recoil of nonconforming minorities.    All this begs the question: What are the unspoken social rules that govern our public campsites, beaches, restaurants, public transport, museums, plazas, and so forth?  Who polices our behaviors beyond the bubble land of “good parenting”?

The range of social etiquettes has always been dictated and policed by society at large, which in itself, is reflected by the present day culture.  Society and culture, in turn, are arguably ordained by social and political contract, (a general understanding between peoples about how they want and choose to live).  Like all things, social etiquettes are changing with the times to accommodate a wider range of acceptable behaviors, and with cruel irony, they flip the rules of yesteryear on its head to embrace a sort of, anarchistic, all-access, social neoliberalism.    America is partly to blame.  Reality TV is partly to blame.  Capitalism is partly to blame.  Social media, digital technologies, globalization, the internet, advertising, multinationals, in short, all things that link us to a greater social community by way of stripping down our personal privacies and civil liberties, have each contributed to a different set of social guidelines.  Propriety and decorum, once revered as two of the most sacred understandings of social etiquette, (the holy grails of society, if you will), have now become obsolete.  “Society” is not what it used to be.  Though still a governing body of sorts, society feels more anarchy than order.  It’s mantra holds, the-louder-and-more grotesque-the better attitude that trashes the “ancient” ways of propriety and decorum for a newfound belief in the rock star mentality, self-entitlement, intimidation, quick gratification, and ego-laden precedence, all propelled by a growing global consciousness.   This has seen an increase in gun violence throughout North America, gang-related crimes, drugs, road-rage, domestic abuse, bullying in our schools, and so on.  It is not surprising then, that we are becoming far less trusting, more suspicious, bitter and irritable.   It is even less surprising that summertime crowds can now be seen as an annoyance, or a source of stress rather than a cause for celebration.  So what about this thing called, “personal privacy”?  How has it become so compromised and what will be the inevitable outcome of its untimely demise?  With global overcrowding and overpopulating, it seems privacy will forever be a thing of the past.  However, that doesn’t mean privacy should become forfeit all together, nor does it mean we should leave society to its own devices.  We must therefore re-examine social etiquette, to determine its true meaning and purpose in order to come to grips with who we collectively are and who we want to be.

In North America, etiquette rules have always generally applied to all individuals, (unlike those cultures with more formal class structures), its bearings orientated by a shared European heritage.   However, we have since done a lot of “growing up," whereby the social norms inherited from our European ancestors have mutated into a new kind of social understanding.  Described by sociologists as being informal laws that govern society’s behaviors, social norms seem essential to the welfare of society at large, as they labor to promote a great deal of social control.  Often times, if people do not adhere to these norms, they will be labeled as deviants, delinquents or misfits, making them social pariahs.  Nonetheless herein lies the inherent crux of the problem - what is considered “normal,” is relative to the culture in which the social interaction is taking place.   So we must then ask ourselves: what are the norms in our culture that allow people to become socialized through conformity?  While norms dictate the interactions of people in all social encounters to promote certain roles of society, we can’t help but reflect upon the generally accepted behaviors of today.  The Real Housewives franchise and TLC’s Toddler’s and Tiara’s are testaments to that.  Televised sports, another illustration.  The food industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the oil industry, Justin Bieber and other YouTube phenomenon all serve as other such examples.  This is reflected within the breakdown of the home.  Television is the new babysitter.  Pop tarts the new breakfast.  Fame over family, money over intellect, and digital technologies have become the platform from which we can grow into the social Frankensteins of our modern era.  All of this sees a loss of personal space, privacy and our ultimate civil liberties.  Psychologists tend to agree that most people value their sense of privacy and personal space and feel discomfort, anger, or anxiety when their sense of privacy is encroached.   However, what was once considered an indication of familiarity and intimacy, has now become communal and unrestricted, whereby social media has made the publication of personal life a social norm. Even though, ironically, things like social media were initially created on the premise of expanding social networks, creating greater social communities and extending social acceptance, they have, in essence, done the complete opposite.

Despite all the inherent issues concerning the historical social etiquettes of the Old World, today’s social norms seem even more insufferable, nonsensical, unethical and nonhuman.  Like a rebellious teen, we have dissented against the social norms of our forbearers, to swing out as far as we possibly can away from a perceivable oppressive past.  However in doing so, so we have also lost our integrity, our intelligence, and our sensitivity… in short, our humanity.  It is now the time to re-evaluate.  It is time to make serious decisions.  How do we want to raise our children?  Bearing in mind cause and affect, what kinds of pop culture things do we want to support and why?  Perhaps we must forego the freedom of social media and the Internet, in order to protect our civil liberties and human rights.  Perhaps we must do the unthinkable we thought we’d never do: we must disconnect.  We must limit.  We must show restraint.   This is how and where we shall recover our privacy.

In the heart of the summer months, it is easy to feel this sense of urgency over our private space.  Crowded public pools, beaches, tennis courts, walkways, campsites, buses, coffee shops, high volume traffic and lineups, see us all fighting for a piece of the pie.  But it’s not just summer thronging that creates this kind of anxiety.  Indeed it is our very culture that acts the sincere instrument of personal stress, exacerbated by what was once an enjoyable thing like beach days and family fishing trips. So, when the Beverly Hillbillies move in on your campfire with their caravan of cats, dogs screaming children and roaring engines simply because you’ve got the best spot on the beach, you now know who and what to blame.  But you have the choice.  You can stay and pitch a tent alongside them, or you can get up and walk away, never looking back.

-Elizabeth Cucnik


Banning Backyard Hens is Bawwwwk-ward Indeed!

It may come as a surprise that most major U.S. cities permit the keeping of backyard hens on urban properties, and now many Canadian cities are following in suit.  Vancouver, Surrey, New Westminster, Victoria, Burnaby, Nelson, Gibsons, London and Niagara Falls, Ontario, are just a few that have jumped on the clucking bandwagon to join a growing number of North Americans advocating for the right to grow and maintain their own food.  Unfortunately however, many municipalities continue to ban backyard flocks despite surmounting research, encouraging statistics and productive action from neighboring boroughs.   Sadly, Penticton is one such municipality, whereby the City has established certain residential zoning bylaws restricting the keeping of backyard hens.  This then begs the question: if New York, one of the world’s largest, most densely populated cities, permits backyard hens on urban properties, why can’t Penticton, a small rural town with a population of 32,000, not also comply?

The issue is not unique to our city.  It is one that has caused a lot of clucking in the mainstream media across Canada.  McLean’s Magazine and Canadian Living recently issued articles deliberating the moot point of backyard hen keeping.  Many proponents contend that the productive argument for backyard flocks finds root in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (to which Canada is a signatory).  They propose that the reality of growing one’s own food in any sensible way is an absolute human right, a fundamental freedom of conscience, thought, belief and expression, and a systemic right to life, liberty and security of person, (as covered in Sections 2 and 7 of the Canadian Charter).   This developing right-to-food trial has taken over much of the thought-think of contemporary urban living worldwide, in which a growing number of Canadians now attribute their love of backyard farming as a way to re-engage with nature, control the quality and source of their food and cut the chord of dependence on the industrial food industry.  Moreover proponents for backyard hen keeping base their argument on strong ethical objections to commercial egg-producing methods.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency provides detailed descriptions and analysis on how to maintain backyard flocks, humane considerations, how to prevent and detect disease and basic hen care, as well as providing resources for backyard hen owners.  The humane treatment of chickens as well as other domesticated animals, is generally defined by the “five freedoms,” as developed by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, (an advisory body to the British government). These include: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom to express normal behavior and freedom from fear and distress.  It seems the stipulated “Five Freedoms” could be easily facilitated by the keeping of backyard hens in residential zones, provided the urban dwelling hen keepers maintain a level of commonsense and responsibility, (as one should with do with any domestic pet).  Ironically, most large commercial and industrial chicken farms and manufacturers across North America do not even come close to meeting such criterion as the “Five Freedoms.”  So why not backyard hens in Penticton?

Under Penticton’s zoning bylaw, chickens are only permitted in agricultural structures situated within agricultural zones.  The bylaw defines an agricultural structure as a structure used for agriculture and “intensive impact agriculture,” in which the primary production of farm products (dairy, poultry, cattle, hogs, sheep and other animals) is designated as “farm use” under the Agricultural Land Commission Act.  These agricultural zones are therefore defined to provide appropriate development within rural areas, while safeguarding against the intrusion of agricultural uses and farm operations on residential zones.  Accordingly, the City of Penticton has designated the minimum setback from all property lines for “intensive impact agriculture,” (which includes poultry, game and fur barns) to be 30 meters, and the minimum setback from any urban area boundary to be at least 60 meters.

At first glance, these restrictions and regulations may seem pretty standard.    However, upon greater inspection, it is not difficult to point out the shortcomings.  What was once standard is now, simply outdated. Penticton’s agricultural and zoning bylaws are not at all progressive by way of contemporary living, whereby the greater part of the population does not live on a farm.  Indeed there are several unfitting elements to Penticton’s agricultural and zoning bylaw.  Firstly, chickens are classified as “intensive impact agriculture,” the very same classification higher agricultural impact livestock, such as cattle, sheep, pigs, horses and goats fall under.  It seems more commonsense than policy, to have a distinctive category for Chickens, (especially those considered for backyard use).  Moreover under such bylaws, the agricultural impact of chickens is made equal to agricultural waste storage and agricultural compost (both of which have required setbacks of 30 meters from all property lines), which of course, is grossly inequitable.  Backyard hen keeping with a restriction on number and size is not the equivalent to large agricultural waste storage and agricultural compost.  But again, this is more commonsense than anything else.  Secondly, while the parameters and guidelines of hen keeping (as stipulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency) indubitably comply with an urban setting, why does the City of Penticton designate chickens as “farm use” only?  Lastly, backyard hens should not be considered an “intrusion” to residential zoning and residential uses.  They are no more intrusive than cats and dogs, both of which require a general knowledge of pet-ownership, maintenance, care and responsibility.

It is a fact that the benefits of raising backyard hens, far outweighs any detriment.  Eggs from well-tended backyard flocks are far superior than eggs from factory farmed chickens.  In contrast to factory farm eggs, backyard hen eggs have 25 percent more vitamin E, a third more vitamin A, 75 percent more beta-carotene, (that rich orange yolk color) and have significantly more omega-3 fatty acids than their factory farm counterparts.  Moreover, eggs from backyard hands are fresh and therefore much more flavorful.  And that is only the health aspect of consuming backyard chicken eggs.  The positive environmental impact of keeping backyard hens is astonishing.  Hens provide chemical free bug and weed control, their scratching is good for the soil, and hen droppings enrich backyard composts, (chickens are known to produce the world’s best fertilizer).  Not to mention chickens provide excellent lessons for children and families about responsibility while learning about where our food comes from.

In those Canadian cities that have reformed their bylaws to permit backyard hens, there is little evidence that urban coops have caused problems.  This is mainly due to the fact that such municipalities have established sound guidelines; restrictions and registration programs to ensure hen keepers become familiar and comfortable with animal husbandry and veterinary care.  The City of Vancouver for example, ensures that its backyard hen policy focuses on protecting the health and welfare of its citizens while supporting the humane treatment of backyard hens.  Working closely with Vancouver Coastal Health to guarantee regulations satisfy concerns of health and safety, Vancouver’s Health Authority now concurs with the City’s regulations and supports it’s efforts to increase local food options, which allows residents to participate in the local food system.

So why not consider the proposition: What could be more commonsensical than exercising the human freedom to keep a reasonable number of well-looked-after chickens on Canadian urban properties?  Let’s pilot it, do a trial run of backyard hen keeping and generate a citywide survey to get the feedback from our residents.  We should seriously consider revising our dusty, old-fashioned agricultural bylaws, to accommodate a new-age philosophy on contemporary living.  Legislation that restricts those wanting to enjoy the benefits of raising and producing their own food without having to own a farm is not only counterproductive, it is arguably an infringement on our human rights.  The evidence is clear: backyard hens are far more ethically viable, healthier, environmentally friendly and natural than those commercially farmed chickens and are no different in maintenance and care than other domestic pets.  So let’s get on it Penticton and make backyard hens a healthy option for all Pentictonites!

-Elizabeth Cucnik