I’ve never forgotten, years ago, hearing a former acquaintance scoff at something he didn’t value, and say, “That’s not my Red Deer.”
It emphasized for me how so many of us really do live in different versions of Red Deer, based on our hobbies, our work and our social circles. And so I’d like to share with you a handful of snapshots of my summer and fall: a smattering of the many reasons why I love Red Deer.
So a singer, an actor and a magician walk into a bar … it’s not a joke, people, this is my life.
My partner Blaine Newton and I are a pair of those weird creatives – I’ve published three books, we’ve written a play together, he’s an actor and playwright and sometime Blues Brother – and we know many local artists, actors, musicians and writers.
Anyway, we were at CentreFest, one of my favourite festivals of all time: we laughed our heads off, threw money into street performer hats, then had a drink on the patio at To The Lost, where we found ourselves sitting with a singer, an actor and a magician. All completely normal for my Red Deer.
Later that night, we went to the grown-up CentreFest show at The Krossing, where Blaine was invited up on stage to wrap a beautiful street performer in chains.
That was less usual, I’ll admit. I drank wine, he chained and zip-tied, she escaped – all in all, a well-rounded evening.
We were at the Scott Block a lot this summer: the “Best of Bull Skit” season wrap-up, then in July for their annual fundraiser, where the undisputed highlight was seeing artistic director Jenna Goldade’s unborn baby take a pie to the face. I mean, you can never start kids too early in the arts.
We were there again for Sketch Fest two weeks ago, which featured theatre teams from Red Deer, Winnipeg and Edmonton. We saw more improv and sketch at the Nickle Studio with Improv Jelly, and yes, Blaine was in it, and he was hilarious.
We spent a lot of time on the Ross Street Patio. I know this sounds like our life is one big party, but most artists have day jobs, and we both do. But after work in the summer, there’s nothing nicer than watching the world go by on Ross Street through a glorious filter of red and white petunias.
One evening a young guy rolled up on his skateboard, sat at the Ross Street Piano and played.
Another time, it was an older man with a bag of cans. A young couple, who I’m convinced fell in love in the moments they sat together at that piano. A gaggle of kids plinked out nonsense for five minutes.
We applauded each one, and called out our thanks. Between those impromptu concerts and the scheduled live music, the Ross Street Patio is a vibrant summer space where I feel connected to my community.
We heard three authors read this summer at The Coconut Room in Sunworks, the best venue in town for book events. And there were the First Friday art events downtown – a standout show for me featured all sorts of fantastic trees in the Kiwanis Gallery at Red Deer Public Library.
And there was a stunning series of intricate pencil drawings in Sunworks’ White Gallery by talented Red Deer artist Erin Boake. First Friday art fun happens every month in this city. And it’s free to attend.
Three weeks ago, we attended the premiere screening of Break On Through, the new film by Red Deer’s Ignition Theatre. Wow. Chills and champagne equal the best possible Saturday night date. Public screenings run October 14-18 at Welikoklad Centre and you do not want to miss this eerie and thought-provoking film.
I carry with me a couple of particular visuals from this summer.
The CentreFest fundraiser Benefit on the Bridge had food trucks, a bar, music by Overdue Blues Band, and fairy lights strung along the bridge above the sparkling river. It was magical.
Then there was Pride in the Park – more live music, food trucks, rainbows, laughter and sunshine, all against the beautiful Bower Ponds backdrop. And Red Deer has our very own drag queens: Sparkle Emotion and Kelli Electrix! Fabulous!
Y’know, I didn’t see that former acquaintance at any of these events. But he was out all summer, too, I’m certain, moving through his version of Red Deer, doing what makes him happy, seeing the people who define his close-knit community. After all, the healthiest, most successful cities are made up of all kinds of diverse elements – and the opportunities we don’t partake of are as important for their benefit to our fellow Red Deerians as the ones that deliver our own memorable experiences.
Leslie Greentree is an award winning author of three books and weird greeting cards.