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Red Deer kicks off year-long birthday bash

Forget birthday candles — Red Deer lit up the sky with fireworks to celebrate its 100th birthday on Monday night.

Centennial First Night on New Year’s Eve at Bower Ponds featured an old-fashioned skating party at 6 p.m. with free birthday cake, hot chocolate and glow sticks.

Tunes filled the park until 9 p.m., then a 12-minute firework display set to music wowed hundreds of people who came out.

Sheila Bannerman, Red Deer Centennial Committee chairperson, said the crowd grew quicker than anticipated probably due to the mild temperature.

“We are so lucky. I just can’t believe it,” said Bannerman about great weather.

Selena Percy, of Red Deer, said it’s hard to believe the city has been around for a century.

“We came to celebrate. We’re very excited for the city’s 100th birthday,” said Percy who came out with her son Asher Percy-Land, 8.

Asher said he loves New Year’s and didn’t waste any time tying up his skates to join the activity on the frozen pond.

“I hope some community group will take it on and start to do it every year,” said Selena Percy about the New Year’s skating party.

It was the first time Courtney Spatz, of Penhold, and her family visited the skating rink at Bower Ponds and was a special night for her son Aiden Rieder.

“It’s his first time skating. He’s out with his dad right now. We didn’t even know about the 100th celebration at all,” Spatz said.

Paul and Paula Bill, long time Red Deer residents, said they weren’t going to miss the first opportunity to wish the city a happy birthday.

“I can remember the 50th really clear, and the 75th,” Paul Bill said.

“We might as well be here for the 100th. We might not be here for 125,” Paula Bill said with a laugh.

He said the skating party and fireworks are a great idea and something that’s been missing in the city he calls home.

“I like the size. I like the people,” Paul Bill said.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling hopes people who live in Red Deer, and those who have lived here in the past, will return to celebrate the centennial.

“Also I’m hoping new Canadians will embrace this, all the new people who have arrived and now make up our diverse community, that they will see this as an opportunity to celebrate their new community,” Flewwelling said.

Alberta’s third largest city and fourth largest municipality will observe the actual date of incorporation on March 25 with a special city council meeting.

“That won’t be the biggest celebration, but perhaps the most historically significant.”

He is also looking forward to River of Lights on June 30 on the Red Deer River from Fort Normandeau to Three Mile Bend.

“I’m living in anticipation of something quite exciting.”

And for the first time, Red Deer will also be hosting the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Awards. Lt-Gov. Donald Ethell will present $30,000 awards, hand-crafted medals, and the opportunity for a residency at The Banff Centre’s Leighton Artists’ Colony to up to three recipients at a gala dinner in Red Deer on June 15.

The gala is the culmination of Rooted in the Arts, a week-long arts celebration in Red Deer, chosen as host city through a competitive bid process.

“(The awards gala) will have a huge draw from all over the province. It will be one of the ways the province will know we’re celebrating our 100th anniversary,” Flewwelling said.

Several centennial activities planned for January

An education on Red Deer’s Ghost Statues is one of the January events that will bring Red Deer’s 100-year history to life as the city begins its 2013 centennial celebrations.

Sheila Bannerman, Red Deer Centennial Committee chairperson, said the Jan. 16 presentation on the city’s life-size bronze statues by the city’s public art co-ordinator Pat Matheson is just the beginning.

“One of the projects for us this year is to have actors dressed as ghost statutes appearing at various different events throughout the year,” Bannerman said.

People will be able to speak to the ghost statues and learn their stories and therefore lose their anonymity, she said.

The public can also learn about the works of Robert Service this month through performances by local musician Bruce Jacobson and actor Paul Boultbee.

“Between the two of them they put together three performances that use drama, art and music to explain the work of Robert Service,” Bannerman said.

“(Jacobson) has dreamed of putting together something where he could explore Robert Service’s poetry in a general sense, not just his war poetry, and familiarize people with the lighter side (of Service).”

Centennial activities for January include:

• Jan. 12 — Official launch of the year-long exhibit Hometown Heroes: 100 years of Sport in Red Deer at Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. The launch is at 1 p.m. with free admission to the museum to see the exhibit from 1 to 2 p.m. Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is located at 102 - 4200 Hwy 2.

• Jan. 16 — Central Alberta Historical Society monthly speaker: Ghosts of Red Deer by Pat Matheson. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Red Deer Public Library Snell Auditorium, 4818 49th St.

• Jan. 18 — At Your Service: Robert Service Tea Party at Pioneer’s Lodge, 4324 46A Ave.

• Jan. 18 and 19 — At Your Service: Poems and Songs of Robert Service at Pioneer’s Lodge.

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