Wednesday morning, August 6, 1997 was no more peculiar for the citizens of Kelowna that any other day that summer. Vacationing school children enjoyed the sunshine while their parents went off to work, unsuspecting of the hurricane like storm that would rip through a very narrow portion of their city, destroying historic landmarks in it’s wake. The powerful storm would be contained to a very narrow path of the city, doing no harm to some buildings and landscape standing right next to others it destroyed.
Approximately 5:30 p.m. that evening, the blue skies blackened and the winds picked up speed. In some areas along the lonely path of the storm, the winds were estimated to be blowing up to 100 kph and an eerie sensation fell over the residents and visitors of Kelowna. Mother Nature was hard at work and she would change the landscape of Kelowna’s City Park forever. The scenery of the Park would take on an entirely new appearance after the storm.
Although the storm lasted less than one hour, it caused millions of dollars of damage and devastated City Park, toppling approximately 50 trees; some measuring over 100 feet in height and over 100 years old. Not only did the Park suffer severe damage, but along the city’s waterfront, the Yacht Club would also be a victim of the storm with many boats being damaged, totally destroyed and some even sinking to the bottom of Okanagan lake. Walkways at the Yacht Club were torn up like mere twigs and thrown into and against the boats moored there. When winds subsided, there were 12 boats lying on the floor of the lake. No boat escaped that day without damage of some sort.
The storm passed and the “Old Tree” along with many others lay in a large heap on the ground. Only moments after the storm disappeared, under a cloudy grey sky, visitors and residents went to the park to witness the damage so hastily left in such a short duration.
As the clean-up commenced, the trees were destined to a final resting place in a lumber yard or a wood chipper. One lone, tremendous tree, the largest of them all, would become a tribute to the people of Kelowna. This “Old Tree” would bring together Mr. Clifford Pettman, world renowned artist, Centre Group Commercial Realty and Towne Centre Mall. Mr. Pettman created the sculpture. The owners of Towne Centre Mall worked with architects and contractors devising the pan that would enable the sculpture to be placed through the skylights and down into the mall.
The sculpting of the massive stump lasted for over a year and was lifted by crane through the roof of Towne Centre Mall in June 1999.
Centre Group Commercial Realty is pleased to bring you this beautiful display of Mr. Pettmans’s artistic abilities transforming and capturing the “Old Tree’s” past life and experience along with that of our Okanagan Pioneers.
The “old Tree’ weights approximately 7,000 pounds, is 10′ in diameter, approximately 16′ in height and is estimated to be 120 years old. This sculpture boasts both 2 and 3 dimensional figures and is thought to be the largest cottonwood sculpture in it’s type in the world.