Smiling faces, waiting patiently in line to meet two Ninja Turtles were just one highlight of a busy weekend at the Central Alberta Family Expo.
It ran on Saturday and Sunday and offered children from across Red Deer and area a chance to have fun and for parents to not have to pay too much for it.
Admission was only $10 for parents, free for children 14 and under, and inside was a room full of activities, movie and television characters, shopping, a petting zoo and local organizations.
But the most popular attraction, according to expo organizer Nancy Paish, were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
“The Ninja Turtles are a huge draw,” said Paish. “We get the licensed characters that come from Nickelodeon. They are the real deal.”
Leonardo and Donatello were on the main stage posing, hugging and high-fiving with kids young and old.
But they weren’t the only costumed photo opportunity at the event. STARS Air Ambulance partnered with the Badlands Garrison 501st Legion, part of a world wide Star Wars costuming organization.
For a donation to STARS, people got their photos taken with an Imperial Stormtrooper, an Imperial Officer, a Jawa and even Darth Vader and Admiral Ackbar.
“STARS is our charity of choice,” said Paish. “We provide the space for them to come in and bring the Star Wars characters in as volunteers. Donations for pictures, so all weekend they’re raising funds for STARS.”
At the back of the Prairie Pavilion at the Westerner Park was a bouncy castle area for kids to run and play and a petting zoo featuring goats, donkeys, roosters and more.
“It’s about fun for kids, but also to bring families to a place where they can just have fun for the day,” said Paish. “There’s lots of local businesses and they can gather information on things like summer camps. But they can also have fun.”
In between the animals, costumed photo opportunities and the bouncy castle were rows of booths featuring local toy stores, hair dressers, gymnastics, virtual reality gaming, an indoor trampoline park, Alberta Health Services, a music studio and more.
“We encouraged the booths to have as many activities as possible in the booth,” said Paish. “We try to have free things for the entire day.”
Paish said they hoped to see about 6,000 people come through the doors and that they had 2,600 come through on Saturday.