It will be a bit more low-key than usual, but the Lytton River Festival is back this year, and will be taking place in the territory of Lytton First Nation Aug. 27–28.
The festival is a celebration of Lytton people and culture and the area’s two defining rivers, the Fraser and Thompson, as well as the thousands of years of history associated with those great waterways. It was cancelled in 2020 because of COVID, and in 2021 because of the fire on June 30 that destroyed 90 per cent of the Village of Lytton and many properties in the surrounding area.
The festival usually spreads out over streets in the centre of Lytton, but since that’s not possible this year, the event will be held in the building and grounds of the Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux School off Highway 12, just northwest of the village.
Festival president Jessoa Lightfoot cautions festival-goers that they’ll have to be more self-sufficient than in years past.
“There’s no accommodation and no eateries, so we can’t really invite people from the huge surrounding area in unless they’re prepared to meet those needs themselves,” she warns. “This year it will be more a small community event, so people should bring their own water and snacks.”
Fans of the festival’s famous Chicken Poop Bingo have no need to fear, however: the event will be back this year, and is scheduled to take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27. Other events planned for Saturday include kids’ bouncy slides and a dunk tank (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.); arts and crafts activities for kids (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.); and horseshoes (1 to 5:30 p.m.).
There will also be “make and take” craft workshops for adults, led by Indigenous artisans (seating is limited; watch for registration information on the Lytton River Festival Facebook page). “Workshops and artisans have always been part of the River Festival,” says Lightfoot. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 27 you can create woven cedar headbands and roses with Desiree Peters and Thomas Johnnie, and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. there will be short beadwork sessions featuring beaded flowers with Amanda James or a beaded medallion with Christine Abbott.
It wouldn’t be a River Festival without live music, and from 4 to 11 p.m. on Saturday you can enjoy the music of Gerald Charlie, Jenny and the Gents, and Lytton’s favourite sons, Ritchie and the Fendermen, who will be on stage from 7 to 9 p.m.
On Sunday there will be more “make and take” sessions from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: make beautiful beaded pins with Jody Cleghorn, or a beaded medallion with Christine Abbott. Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., 15 local Indigenous artisans will share their knowledge of Nlaka’pamux culture.
Starting at 2 p.m. there will be Shlahal games and a tournament with Harvey Dunstan, and Willard Wallace will be providing live music between 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. From noon until 2 p.m., Mr. Bubbles will entertain children of all ages with his amazing balloon creations and stilting antics.
Vendors will be on site between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on both days, and Lightfoot says that the organizers are happy to welcome anyone who wants to come and set up.
“If anyone wants to be a vendor, let us know. If you have a table and a canopy we’ll try to accommodate you. And come if you have information you want to share with us. The Red Cross will be there to talk about ongoing support and mental health support.”
She adds that they are hoping to have basketball and/or children’s soccer and a concession, as well as a community meal. “We’re particularly interested in finding an organization that would be willing to cater — as a fundraiser — our traditional Sunday evening community feast.”
Lightfoot notes that planning this year’s event has been challenging. “It’s evolving as we go along. The Nohomin Creek fire kicked us off pace, and the power was down for a week, and there have been highway closures.
“We’re hoping to get our neighbours down — there’s a little Lytton there in Ashcroft on the reserve — and hope everyone will come and have a fun day.”