Owen Kincade

Thousands of talented Okanagan youngsters won't be able to perform this spring at the Kelowna Kiwanis Festival, which was cancelled Tuesday due to the pandemic. Owen Kincade, 12, of Penticton won top honours at the festival last year and has been accepted to the National Ballet of Canada.

A long-running music festival will be replaced by the sound of silence this spring in Kelowna.

What would have been the 95th edition of the Kelowna Kiwanis Festival, featuring hundreds of top young musicians and singers, has been cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic.

Most of the festival was cancelled in 2020, though some dance and choral events were staged before the public gatherings were suspended at the onset of the pandemic in March.

Festival organizers had been hoping to stage some version of the event this year, but extension of public health orders until at least early February made that impossible.

"When we heard last Thursday that Dr. Bonnie Henry was extending restrictions on gatherings for another month, the board had no choice but to cancel, disappointing many young participants who are starved for opportunities to perform," festival board president Zonia Arnold said in a release.

The focus will now be on bringing the festival back in 2022. "When it is safe to gather again after we all get the vaccine, I look forward to delivering the best Kelowna Kiwanis Festival ever," executive director Dr. Stephen Berg said.

The festival usually runs from March till mid-May, and features more than 3,000 young performers in a dozen disciples in music, voice, and dance.

Until 1980, the festival was rotated between Kelowna, Penticton, and Vernon. Since then it has been held in Kelowna, drawing talented youngsters from around the Okanagan.