Centrefest begins: Passing the hat in downtown Red Deer

Rock ‘n’ roll marionettes, rope walkers and fire-eating circus acrobats will showcase their unique skills today fri at Red Deer’s City Hall Park in preparation for this weekend’s Centrefest.

Rock ‘n’ roll marionettes, rope walkers and fire-eating circus acrobats will showcase their unique skills today fri at Red Deer’s City Hall Park in preparation for this weekend’s Centrefest.

A taste of the street performer festival is being offered at a preview show from noon to 1 p.m. today, including a fundraising barbecue, hosted by volunteer burger flippers from Hotels Red Deer.

This is Centrefest’s 14th year, yet the excitement hasn’t dimmed for festival director Janice Shimek, who’s particularly eager to see The Puppet Guy (a.k.a. Lee Zimmerman) from the U.S.

It’s been a long time since Centrefest featured a puppet act, and Zimmerman’s Jimi Hendrix marionette can ‘play’ the guitar with his teeth, play it over his head, “and do all the things that Jimi Hendrix would do,” she said.

Zimmerman’s taken his marionettes around the world for 30 years, including Universal Studios, The Improv in Hollywood, and appearing in dozens of TV shows including The Drew Carey Show. His puppet creations have also entertained the cast of Seinfeld, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zappa, the Guns ‘N’ Roses musicians, Hugh Hefner and the Sultan of Brunei.

Shimek is especially interested in seeing his Flyin’ Bob Puppet, commissioned by none other than Red Deer street performer and Centrefest artistic director Robert Palmer (who is Flyin’ Bob).

“Apparently it look just like him!” she added, with a chuckle.

Centrefest is a free family event — but everyone is urged to bring loonies and toonies to show appreciation to the professional street performance who pass the hat for their living.

Also coming is the award-winning Cirque No Problem. The duo from Israel combines the carnival atmosphere of circuses in the 1920s and ’30s with cutting-edge stunts on the double trapese, as well as rope-walking, juggling and comedy. Noa and Uri Weiss won the World Street performer Championships in Dublin, Ireland.

The other Centrefest shows are: “Death-defying adventure” from Australia’s Zap Circus; unbelievable balance and witty banter from American Rhys Thomas of Jugglemania!; high-flying acrobatic comedy from Quebec trio Flip!; and a hilarious “choices and consequences” act from the U.K.’s “master of crowd control,” Bill Ferguson.

City workers will close off part of 49th Avenue. (Gaetz North) for the weekend street festival. The section from Sorenson transit station to the provincial building will be closed from 6 a.m. Saturday to 9 p.m. Sunday. Motorists heading north will have to take a detour to 48th Avenue. Ross Street will also be closed to traffic from City Hall to Little Gaetz (50th Avenue.)

Shimek has 100 volunteers to help her pull off Centrefest, which runs from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. It will include roving Alberta street performers, a music world street stage, featuring a lineup of talented Central Alberta performers, as well as a water world and a circus world.

Once the kids are alseep, an adult version of Centrefest will take place at 9 p.m. Saturday in a fenced off section of 49th Avenue, between 49th Street and Ross Street. “The performers are really looking forward to that show … It’s a licensed event,” said Shimek. Tickets are $20 from State and Main outlets, Original Joes, Housewarmings, or Comforts the Sole.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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