It was a party at the Ponds on Canada Day.
The 46th annual July 1 celebration at Bower Ponds, organized by Red Deer Cultural Heritage Society, was its customary crowd-pleasing, multicultural festival with local dancers, music, and tasty food.
It was the first Canada Day gathering in Red Deer for Bernice Swanson, who wore a sparkly flag hat for the occasion.
Swanson and her husband moved to Red Deer in September from Turtle Lake, Sask. and have visited family in Red Deer over the years.
“We both kind of fell in love with Red Deer. This is where we’re going to call home now. It’s big enough and small enough,” said Swanson who is thinking about volunteering for the Canada Winter Games that Red Deer will host in 2019.
Another new Red Deer resident who spent her first Canada Day at Bower Ponds was Cayla Gilbert, a family medicine resident who moved from Edmonton last July.
“The entertainment has been good. And the food and the multicultural aspect is really nice too,” said Gilbert who enjoyed some birthday cake with her daughter Aerlann Thompson, 3.
Carroll Borg, president of the Red Deer Cultural Heritage Society, estimated the Canada Day crowd reached about 1,500 by the 2 p.m. opening ceremony.
“If there’s absolutely no green space we know it’s a big crowd. There isn’t quite as many here at this time of day as we’ve had other years, but it’s still a really good crowd. Before the day is over, we’ll have at least 10,000 people,” Borg said.
She said the chance of rain didn’t scare many people away and everyone should really be impressed by the fireworks finale. Wei’s Western Wear, the major sponsor of the fireworks, wanted it to be extra special.
MP Earl Dreeshen, who spoke to the crowd, said Canada Day is an opportunity to come together as a nation to celebrate unity, diversity, and a shared culture.
It’s also a time for people to celebrate community, family, neighbours and friends, he said.
“Whether people are drawn here by our volunteerism, our unmatched entrepreneurial spirit, or for the amenities that support us while raising our families, Red Deer continues to draw people from across Canada and all over the world,” Dreeshen said.
Red Deer North MLA Kim Schreiner brought greetings on behalf of Premier Rachel Notley.
“As Canadians we’re committed to our democratic system of government, a government that ensures the will of the people is respected, at the same time providing safe guards for the most vulnerable among us. As you look around our city, our province, our country today, I think it’s safe to say this system has served us well. There is truly no better place in the world than our Canada,” said Schreiner, earning cheers and applause.