National pride on display at Bower Ponds

Thousands of revellers showed up at Red Deer Bower Ponds on Friday to celebrate a birthday that is never too old in Canada.

Thousands of revellers showed up at Red Deer Bower Ponds on Friday to celebrate a birthday that is never too old in Canada.

Whether they were born in Canada or not, many visitors wanted to show off national pride during Canada Day’s 144th birthday.

Sara Watson wore a tall, cushy hat shaped like a red maple leaf while her three children — Andrew, 12, Olivia, 10, and Grace, 5 — also donned red and white duds for the special day. Watson and her husband moved here just a couple of years ago from Northern Ireland and since then they’ve embraced their new home. “I think it’s all a part of Canadian tradition — to celebrate and have a little bit of fun,” said Watson. “We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (back in Northern Ireland), but nothing like this.”

Daughter Olivia especially liked the dancers from various cultures who took to the outdoor stage during Red Deer’s 41st Canada Day celebrations.

Among those was Linda Jia and other members of the Red Deer Chinese Society who gave a performance of Kung fu fan. Jia moved to Canada four years ago and has since performed at Canada Day celebrations in Toronto.

Through a translator, Jia expressed how great it was to take part in her first Canada Day event in Red Deer.

“It’s great to be able to show the Chinese culture here,” she added.

As Red Deer Downtown Ambassadors, Jerry Germain and Adriana Tietzsch would normally stand out in their cherry red uniforms and cowboy hats, but not during Canada Day festivities. The commissionaires stroll around downtown to let people know about locations of interest, give directions and help out at special events.

Tietzsch, 31, became a Canadian citizen in 2007 after moving to Vancouver from Mexico seven years earlier with her mother and other family members.

“I have so much to thank Canada for,” said the single mother of two little girls. “I came for my dream.”

Germain said he feels fortunate to have been born in Canada.

“When I work with Adriana and see other folks that come from other places, it gives me a different perspective,” Germain said.

Temperatures were warm through most of the day, reaching 17 C at 3 p.m.

A fireworks spectacle sometime after 11 p.m. closed the show.

The day began early for many volunteers. Around 8 a.m., Tami Murdoch and her crew began preparing food inside the Swedish Vasa Lodge & Fanatullen Scandinavian Dancers booth. She anticipated more than 1,000 Swedish pancakes with whipped cream and strawberries on top will have been served.

“It’s great to be able to be with other people and share in the different cultures,” said Murdoch.

Visitors could dine on everything from Indian samosas to Ukrainian perogies and Chinese egg rolls.

And there was plenty to keep youngsters entertained.

Some lined up to have their faces painted at the Red Deer Food Bank booth where Lisa Fett used a small spray gun and stencils. The 13-year-old volunteer said she likes coming down to the festivities to help out the charity.

Only 90 minutes into the big party and she was busy. Too many to count, already.

The most popular look — having little red maple leafs or red hearts stencilled on.

Several organizations including Neighbourhood Watch and Canadian Red Cross set up display booths to promote their services.

Susan Turkington, visitor experience manager for Tourism Red Deer, said that Canada Day celebrations are “absolutely fabulous for the exposure.”

“Not only do we sell souvenirs here, but we can help people find their way around town and direct them to Tourism Red Deer where they can find information from all over the province,” said Turkington, referring to the bureau located just north of the Hwy 2 and 32nd Street overpass.

The booth was packed with Canada pins, magnets, shirts and floppy hats, including a red-and-white jester hat selling for $10.

About 750 people received a free slice of “Happy Canada Day-City of Red Deer” cake made by Mark Check, chef with Victoria Park senior retirement community.

Cecilia Pacquiao, co-manager, said the chef had been preparing the 1.2-metre by 1.8-metre raspberry chocolate cake for days, in between his regular job.

Six people had to carry it out to the back of the truck for transportation.

Victoria Park has been in the Red Deer community for about 13 years,” she said. “We love to give back something to the community.”