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An awesome centennial celebrated

Wasn’t that a party?

From the First Night Skating Party to the show-stopping Fire & Ice Centennial Grande Finale, Red Deer’s 100th birthday bash was one for the history books.

The community came out in droves to kick up their heels at family fun events such as the Outdoor Barn Dance on Little Gaetz Avenue in July, the lowering of the 2013 time capsule in the ground in March and the Old Fashioned Fall Fair in September.

“It was awesome,” said Sheila Bannerman, Red Deer Centennial committee chairperson. “We had challenges with weather and a few things but overall all the events ... were great. The community participation, the volunteers and supporters were amazing.”

But there were some hiccups – mainly Mother Nature – along the way that forced the committee of volunteers to scramble in order to put on the show.

The highly anticipated and flagship finale of the Homecoming Weekend, the River of Light: Points of View, was revamped because of the June flooding.

Bower Ponds and Great Chief Park, where the majority of the events were scheduled, were closed as safety measures because of the high water levels on the Red Deer River.

The centennial committee had worked with the U.K.-based Creatmosphere on the project for about a year.

More than 400 barrels installed with battery-operated lights that change colours were slated to float down the Red Deer River from Fort Normandeau to Three Mile Bend.

Bannerman said it would have been spectacular if the show went on but there was only so much they could do because of the weather and lost equipment.

The revamped “visual and audio spectacular” was grounded to Fort Normandeau for two nights.

“Our team of England ended up creating a much more interactive experience at Fort Normandeau,” she said.

“In some ways it was better. Instead of just watching barrels go down the river and then they were gone, they interacted with them. They gave children little remote controls so they could change the light colours.”

Other events that weekend were re-scheduled or shifted to other parts of the city because of the park’s closure.

The confusion resulted in low attendance at some homecoming events.

“That was really unfortunate,” said Bannerman. “We had so little time. We couldn’t reach all these people to let them know things were still happening.”

Banners on the Bridge and the Centennial Chocolate Chase were postponed to Sept.1 which lead to an unplanned evening celebration – a City Hall Park light barrel garden.

The overwhelming response to the lights was witnessed on the committee’s Facebook page that spiked in “likes” following the event.

Bannerman said the centennial party may be over but her wish is that residents will continue to attend events in Red Deer and create a legacy of being involved in the community.

Former mayor Morris Flewwelling said the celebrations were designed to be inclusive so everyone felt they had a part in the city’s centennial.

“All in all I thought anyone in Red Deer would know that we were celebrating the centennial and they were invited to participate,” said Flewwelling. “People really turned out and (heeded) the theme of Create, Celebrate, Commemorate.”

A few Centennial tidbits from 2013:

l Illuminated rain barrels became a symbol of the city’s 100th birthday. Starting in the spring, the Central Alberta Historical Society will sell the remaining barrels.

l Oh yes, there was cake. Some 18,000 pieces of centennial cake was served throughout the year.

l The three best attended events throughout the year were the First Night Skating Party at Bower Ponds on Dec. 31, 2012, the Fort Normandeau light show on June 29 and 30, and the Fire & Ice Centennial Grande Finale at City Hall Park on Dec. 13.

l Red Deer’s “green onion” was transformed into a spectacular art show by the U.K. group Creatmosphere drawing hundreds of people to the vicinity of the water tower for four nights in June.

l The Memorable City, a visual and written history of Red Deer, penned by Red Deer historian Michael Dawe was released in early December. Books are available for $35 plus tax at the Red Deer Public Library, recreation facilities, Tourism Red Deer and City Hall.

l Hot wings tatarian maple, the official centennial tree, was planted in the Centennial Grove along with another 100 trees in the space southwest of Parkland Mall between Gaetz Avenue and 49th Avenue.



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