Summerland's culture and history began with the Okanagan Nation.
These Interior Salish peoples were successful hunter/gatherers thousands of years before Hudson's Bay Company fur traders first trekked through the region. The oldest map of the Okanagan Valley (1827) shows the Summerland area as Nicola Prairie, named for Grand Chief Nicola of the Okanagan Nation.
The region became a thoroughfare for miners and cattle drivers heading to the Cariboo Gold Rush. Later, cattle ranching and fruit farming developed and Summerland was involved in the great age of railway building. Explore this rich past at the Summerland Museum, on heritage walking tours and aboard the Kettle Valley Steam Railway.
Fur traders regularly trekked the Brigade Trail through the Okanagan Valley from 1812 to 1846. The Cariboo Gold Rush of the 1860s brought miners, cattle drivers and missionaries passing through on the way north. They rested at Priest Camp in the Garnet Valley, just north of the present town centre.
Farm and Orchard Industry
Permanent settlement didn't really get rolling until the 1880s and it was different from most frontier areas. Displays at the Summerland Museum show that these were affluent gentlemen farmers and British remittance men who could afford social refinements.
In 1902, Sir Thomas Shaughnessy, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, took an interest in the area and formed the Summerland Development Company to promote a new fruit ranching community. Again, the immigrants tended to be affluent people who often lived in quaint tent houses while they waited for their new homes to be built.
A federal government agricultural research station was established in Summerland in 1914 (now the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre) and many fruit varieties have been developed there.
Summerland Arts & Culture
Summerland nurtures a thriving cultural community. See the work of local artists at the Summerland Arts Centre & Gallery or one of the many private studios and galleries spread around town. Join an enthusiastic audience for a performance of the Good Will Shakespeare Festival, hosted by Summerland Secondary School.
Take in a production by one of the oldest community theatre groups in British Columbia. The Summerland Singers and Players have been performing since about 1913. Visit the George Ryga Centre, located in the former residence of the Canadian playwright who made his home in Summerland for many years. The centre hosts performances, workshops and artist retreats. Walk around Summerland and check out the art banners on town centre lampposts, public sculpture and larger-than-life murals.
Brochures for heritage walking tours are available at the Summerland Museum. Pick up information on historic sites, artists studios, galleries and cultural events at the Summerland Visitor Centre.