Event | Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission
To celebrate and bring awareness to the diversity of the Central Okanagan community as a means to foster a culture that attracts and retains young professionals As one of the fastest growing regions in Canada and BC’s third largest tech hub, the Central Okanagan’s economic growth depends in part on its ability to attract and retain young professionals. Historically known as a retirement community, the COEDC created the Okanagan Young Professionals Collective in 2013 as a means to foster a culture that retains and attracts young professionals in the region.
Diversity and inclusivity are a key element of Canada’s national brand, which the COEDC and OYP leverage in investment and workforce attraction efforts. A 2016 survey of young professionals across Canada conducted by the COEDC and City of Kelowna identified “Community Diversity” as an important element when assessing possible cities to relocate to. Also in 2016, in a highly publicized letter to local media, a Kelowna resident opposed to the city’s newly painted rainbow sidewalks took to calling Kelowna’s Mayor Colin Basran, “Mayor Sugarplum”. These factors led the OYP, with the support of Mayor Basran, to hold the first annual “Sugarplum Ball”, an event celebrating diversity and inclusivity in our community, hosted by “Mayor Sugarplum”. In addition to raising funds and awareness of the Okanagan Pride Society, an event partner, the objective of the event is to recognize and celebrate the diversity that exists in the Central Okanagan and is targeted to young professionals and other community members who value diversity.
Now in its 3rd year, the Sugarplum Ball has been instrumental in bringing together partners with a common goal of
celebrating diversity, raising awareness of local community groups and has become known as the OYP’s annual flagship event.
Attendees: Over 1200 attendees over 3 events. Attendees were of all ages and walks of life, including local leaders in
business, academia and public office such as MP Stephen Fuhr Partners: Okanagan Pride Society, Valley First Credit Union, Bananatag software, In addition to increasing young professional retention, the event has improved the region’s reputation as a diverse and welcoming community as media coverage from Global News, CBC, Vancouver Sun went viral on social media.
The Sugarplum Ball has been a victim of its own success. While the 2016 Sugarplum Ball was meant to be a one-time
event, demand from the community led to the 2nd and 3rd annual event. An annual event of this magnitude takes
considerable financial and human resources. The COEDC consists of 4 FTEs and 4 part time contractors. One part time contractor runs all OYP programming, including but not limited to all Sugarplum Ball planning and implementation. The OYP Officer leans heavily on partners and a strong process driven event planning procedure to ease the burden. Another challenge is keeping the event fresh each year. The OYP has experimented with different themes, sponsors, performers and event elements to keep the event interesting. Going forward, the event may run biennially to prevent program fatigue.