From ukuleles to hiking, Okanagan Folk School ready to make economic impact | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan’s News Source – iNFOnews

Paula McLaughlin will teach ukulele as the Okanagan Folk School’s first course.

Image Credit: Submitted/Murray Wood

April 11, 2022 – 7:31 AM

It may be hard to imagine but things like basket weaving and knitting courses may be the start of a new economic engine for Peachland.

The Okanagan Folk School is ready to launch its first courses – starting with the ukulele April 24 – but organizers are hoping that’s just the start of much bigger things to come.

“It’s about teaching crafts and skills for the enjoyment of knowing how to do it, or helping a person become better at a skill, having fun and meeting people doing it,” Murray Wood, president of the eight-member school board of directors, told

The idea for a Folk School started germinating about 14 months ago when Wood, who owns a B&B in Peachland, hosted a dinner for neighbours.

“The classic question was, how do we bring business to Peachland in the winter?” he said. “They started describing this folk school, called North House Folk School in Minnesota. It’s on Lake Superior. It’s about the same size as Peachland. They started 25 years ago. They brought a whole new life to the town and a lot more revenue. I was just fascinated and spent all night watching YouTube videos on folk schools. And I thought this is perfect. It’s become a labour of love.”

North House began small in 1997 with a handful of local residents who were “passionate about traditional craft and cooperative learning,” its website said.

That’s grown to a school that offers 350 classes to 3,000 students per year. An economic study in 2008 credited it with bringing $6 million per year to the local economy. That grew to $11 when a similar study was done again in 2017, Wood said.

The Okanagan Folk School, right now, is centred mostly in the West Kelowna, Peachland and Summerland areas but expects to grow into a valley-wide organization.

“There’s so much talent up and down the valley along the lake,” Wood said. “We can see organizing courses in different parts of the valley.”

Annabel Stanley is ready to teach basket weaving.

Image Credit: Submitted/Murray Wood



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