DOWNTOWN EXCITEMENT - Spandy Andy is pictured here at last year’s CentreFest. This year’s event runs July 28th and 29th in the downtown core.                                Red Deer Express file photo

DOWNTOWN EXCITEMENT - Spandy Andy is pictured here at last year’s CentreFest. This year’s event runs July 28th and 29th in the downtown core. Red Deer Express file photo

CentreFest set to hit the City’s downtown core

Popular annual festival runs July 28th and 29th

Heading into its 16th year, CentreFest – a downtown street performers festival packed with family fun – runs July 28th and 29th.

As the CentreFest web site so aptly puts it, “There is no form of entertainment that is so diverse and eclectic than street performing. A good busker draws upon the audience, adapting to his or her surroundings.

“No two shows are ever the same, which makes street performing a truly unique form of entertainment.”

CentreFest runs downtown on Ross Street and 49th Ave. Hours on July 28th are from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and from noon to 6 p.m. on July 29th.

To kick things off, the ATCO Gas Kick-Off BBQ gets underway at 11:30 a.m. on July 27th at City Hall Park.

“Five dollars gets you a burger, a pop and chips,” said Janice Shimek, festival director, adding that some of the performers will be onhand to give the audience a taste of what the weekend holds. Performances start at noon but the burgers will be ready by around 11:30 a.m.

This year, staff from Hampton Inn and Suites will be onhand to help with cooking up the burgers, said Shimek.

Meanwhile, CentreFest is wheelchair accessible and entrance is free, but donations help keep CentreFest alive, said Shimek.

All performances are in the ‘pass the hat’ tradition, so folks are asked to bring along some change, which will also be available onsite.

Shimek said that financial support for the event has been rather slim this year, so she’s still on the look-out for sponsorship support. Organizers have been asking local businesses and supporters for 100 donations of $250, she said.

“I’ve had to cut back in a few little areas, and try to get a little more ‘in kind’ support, but we are going to make it work,” she said, adding that those who drop by the event are sure to enjoy some solid, world-class entertainment.

“There are so many people who come out and you see them there (both days),” she said, adding that seeing families head to City Hall Park all set with drinks, coolers and blankets to enjoy the day is always a welcome sight.

“They take in the entertainment for free, and the kids love Circus World as well,” she said. “It’s the people that make it work.

”And there are lots of smiles.”

Besides the main featured performers, there are also several roving performers who will be entertaining the crowds over the weekend.

Visitors can enjoy the food vendors, listen to some great music on the Music World stage in City Hall Park, and kids can learn some circus skills in the aforementioned Axiom Architecture Circus World.

This year’s circle performers include The Great Balanzo from Edmonton, The Unicycling Unicorn from Minnesota, Asaf ‘n Roll from Israel, Bike Boy from Australia, Jaardu the Magic of India (India/Australia) and the Croquicky Brothers from South Korea.

“They are world-class, international street performers,” said Shimek. “A performer could be from Edmonton, but they have to have travelled the world showcasing themselves. We only bring in the best.

“It’s also unique especially here in Red Deer – you will never see another performance like this altogether for a two-day show.”

Shimek said the feedback from performers, year after year, is very encouraging. “They say this is one of the best run festivals that they participate in, and they always want to come back,” she said. “They love CentreFest and they love the community. They say they are well-housed and well fed,” she added with a laugh.

On the evening of July 27th, there is also the CentreFest All Star Variety Showcase event – an adults only show at The Krossing featuring the performers in a different ‘light’.

“You have to be 18-plus, and they push the envelope quite a bit,” she said, adding that doors open at 8 p.m. and showtime is at 9 p.m. Tickets are available at the door.

CentreFest also runs rain or shine. And even when it rains, festival goers don’t stay away for too long.

“We’ve found in the past when we’ve had rainstorms that as soon as they are done, the streets start filling up again.”

In the meantime, besides welcoming more sponsorship support, Shimek said there is also a need for more volunteer support as well particularly with set-up and take-down.

For complete details about the festival, or more about sponsorship or volunteering opportunities, check out www.centrefest.ca or find them on facebook at ‘CentreFest’.

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