Never before has a summer concert meant so much to the future of the Kettle River Museum in Midway. This year’s event on Aug. 31, featuring Kelowna country musician Ben Klick, is an opportunity for the museum to make up lost revenues from fires, floods and construction delays.
“Our annual concert is more important than ever this year,” said the museum’s managing director, Stephanie Boltz.
“The last four years of fires, smoke and floods all had an effect on the museum,” Boltz said. She estimated that visitation has dropped by roughly half since 2015 – a result she attributes to the difficult summer months of natural disasters and smoke in the region.
In turn, the unforeseen events delayed the museum’s latest addition: a 12-bed bunkhouse located at Mile 0 of the Kettle Valley Railway.
Where museum staff hoped to have the tourist draw completed last January, the project was pushed to open six months later in June – something Boltz attributes to contractors being occupied with other recovery projects in the region.
A delayed opening meant delayed advertising too, meaning that travellers from Europe and across Canada might have already made plans for accommodations before news of the bunkhouse’s availability became public.
In the future, Boltz said, the aim is to have the bunkhouse generate around 50 per cent of the museum’s total revenue needed to run. This summer, through only little coverage and word-of-mouth on the trail, they’ve welcomed a visitor or two per week, Boltz said.
“Our hope is that next year will have more momentum and we won’t have any disasters.
“Our season is short and we depend on tourism and locals for support.”
Five years ago the museum put on a fundraising concert and all the proceeds – approximately $23,000 – went to help support residents rebuild and recover after the Rock Creek fire that year.
Now, the museum is looking for the community’s support to ensure that the records of the West Boundary can continue to be compiled, stored and shared with visitors and residents alike.
Where she hopes the crowd for the concert will number around 300 – half the population of Midway – Boltz insisted that, because the museum covers history from Boundary Falls up to Sidley in the west and past Carmi to the north, there’s a range of people who could be interested in maintaining their region’s history.
Performer’s own Boundary connection
In order to learn where he was going to play, Ben Klick sent his parents on a reconnaissance mission to the Kettle River Museum a few weeks ago when they were returning home to the Okanagan from vacation. As Boltz was touring them through the facility, they came across a familiar name. Const. H. E. Klick.
It turns out, Klick said, that his great-grandfather was a member of the British Columbia Provincial Police in the 1940s, patrolling the area along the Kettle Valley Railway. Klick said it was an unknown connection, given that he and his father were both born in Vancouver, and his mother born in England.
Despite not growing up in the country, Klick said he began to love the country sound when, as a four-year-old, he saw Shania Twain belt out “Man, I feel like a woman,” at a Vancouver show.
“At that point, something just hit me,” he said. When his parents asked him if he enjoyed the show, Klick said, he apparently replied with more than just approval. He told his parents that he wanted to be a musician.
“They kind of looked at me like I had three heads and an extra arm,” Klick said.
That said, it took his two Christmases of asking for a guitar to finally get one in his hands.
“Since then,” he said, “it’s always been a part of me, whether it’s playing, singing, writing, travelling all around Canada and down to Nashville to record and write.”
When it comes to next Saturday, Klick said the show will be a special one because he’s invited his family to come out and watch, along with his grandfather – H.E. Klick’s son.
Tickets for the Aug. 31 Ben Klick concert are $20 for adults and free for children. Gates open at 6 p.m.