During the Kamloops Film Festival, I was given the opportunity to interview a gentleman named Ken Eshpeter. If you don’t know the name, you might recognize his face if you’re an avid Film Festival goer, because Ken and his wife Sharon attend the KFF almost every night to see as many films as they can. Ken and Sharon are huge supporters of the KFF, travelling from Daysland, Alberta every year to see our festival. Ken and Sharon are semi-retired farmers who spends the majority of the time contributing to their community through volunteer-work at their local theatre. Ken also spends his time helping out his son at his farm, or running a train that they own and operate within Daysland.
Ken and Sharon have been coming to the festival since 2014 and ever since the first year, they haven’t missed a festival and go to (almost) every single film. Ken and Sharon love the art of film and try to take every opportunity to see new fun and exciting things filmmakers are creating, whether it’s made in Canada, or abroad.
Why Kamloops? Why our festival? Well, Ken and Sharon love to support independent theatres and local art, whether it’s in their hometown or here in Kamloops. They love independent theatres so much that in their small town of Daysland, Ken, his family, and many other members of their community convinced the town to buy an old theatre that was going out of business for the citizens to run voluntarily, called ‘Palace Theatre’. Inside they have one screen that they have converted into a wall-to-wall stage so they can host concerts as well. Sharon is currently the Chairman of DaysArts Society so she is involved in organizing a variety of public events, such as concerts, school movies, public dance lessons, weddings, movies every weekend and any other requests that are received. Ken had been on the Board of Directors for 19 years and now goes in for maintenance work, MC concerts and operates the projector.
Luckily, with the help of the Kelson Group, the Kamloops Film Society kept the Paramount open – and now that festival vibe is kept alive throughout the year.
“Out here in what we call the ‘real rural’ area nothing would happen if it were not for volunteers”
Daysland is a small town of around 900 people, with lots of farmland and heart. The community have worked hard to ensure that there will always be fun and entertaining activities to do in their town. Volunteers are what makes a community strong, which is why we’re so proud at the KFS to have such an array of fantastic volunteers. Here in Kamloops, we have our own local theatre like in Daysland, but we also share another community-run activity; we both have a train! That’s right, on top of volunteering his time to help run a theatre, Ken is also The Chair of The Battle River Railway and the Chair of the Battle River Railway Co-operative. This train is a shortline railway based out of Forestburg, Alberta and offers three core services: tourism, storage, and commodity transportation, helping the agriculture and industrial customers. In the summer, when the Palace Theatre is closed, Daysland still has activities for their residents through the railway, run by an organization called the Friends of the Battle River Railway. This initiative is once again run by volunteers who operate a passenger car excursion service in the summer, much like our Kamloops Heritage Railway!
Ken and his family understand the importance of supporting local businesses, artists, and not-for-profits and how integral they are to a community. They are not only leaders in their neighborhood, but they showcase the importance of how to support your hometown and help it thrive. By operating the projector and doing maintenance, being the Chairman of the DaysArts Society, being the chair for the Battle River Railway, and supporting their family’s farm in their spare time, The Eshpeter family are truly people to admire.
“Sharon and I love your Kamloops Film Festival. We could go to the Edmonton one but we love your venue too much including the Plaza where we stay. Also, Victoria Street is just full of excellent restaurants within walking distance and you have micro-brewed beer everywhere.”
Thank you Ken (and Sharon), for coming to our festival and for our lovely chat. We’ll see you next year!
More information on The Battle River Railway: https://www.battleriverrailway.ca/
More information on the Palace Theatre: https://palacetheatre-daysarts.ca/palace-theatre/
More information on Daysland, Alberta: http://www.daysland.com/
The Kamloops Film Society and the Kamloops Film Festival hopes that everyone is staying safe and staying indoors. We hope that once this is all over, our downtown community can go back to a bustling and exciting area for those near and far to enjoy.