Centrefest street performers’ festival brings global talent to local audiences of all ages. (Advocate file photo).

Centrefest is set to dazzle — despite some financial fizzle

The show runs July 26-28 at Celebration Plaza on 48th Avenue

An international array of acrobats, jugglers and comedians are coming to Red Deer’s downtown to dazzle and amaze crowds at Centrefest.

But some careful tight-rope walking will be needed to finance this year’s street performer festival.

First the good news: Central Alberta’s largest summertime celebration is returning from July 26 to 28, and moving to Celebration Plaza, in front of Red Deer’s culture services centre, and along 48th Avenue.

The free, family friendly festival will feature multi-talented buskers and rovers from the U.K., Germany, Australia, the U.S and Canada.

For the first time, there will be an all-talent variety stage open to any local singers, dancers, musicians and comedians who want an audience.

Centrefest director Janice Shimek is also pleased to co-host a Friday night Taste of Red Deer event in partnership with the Red Deer Hospital Foundation. It will feature 20 restaurant booths and a beer garden.

“It’s so exciting to do something new,” she says.

Shimek is less than thrilled, however, to be dealing with the loss of a $12,000 heritage grant that had annually been counted on.

She admits this is a very inopportune time to have lost the federal funding. The Alberta economy has not yet recovered and many local businesses have already given their limited sponsorship dollars to other causes — including the 2019 Canada Winter Games and Canadian Finals Rodeo.

The cumulative effect on the festival of the grant loss and drop in donations will be a deficit of about $25,000, estimates Shimek.

Centrefest, which costs $250,000 annually in grants, donations and services-in-kind, also receives support through the City of Red Deer, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and community fundraisers.

Festival organizers will be trying to recoup the shortfall through ongoing benefits in the fall and winter — when they should be trying to fundraise for next year’s festival.

Shimek says she’s already committed to the performers and donors for 2019. But once this year’s Centrefest is over, board members will discuss the viability of continuing with the outdoor event past its 17th season.

“We’ll have to sit down and talk about what’s next,” admits board chair Jan Penney, who has heard all local arts groups are having the same trouble getting sponsorships or donations.

Both women hope Centrefest can continue, as they feel Red Deer has too few cultural events and festivals for a city of its size.

“It’s about quality of life,” says Shimek, who notes the event attracts people of all ages who don’t necessarily like rodeos and sporting events.

“What about arts and culture?” she adds, asking why city residents should have to drive to Edmonton and Calgary to attend festivals.

Penney noted if 25 businesses each put up $1,000, the deficit would be covered. Anybody who wants to donate or become a Centrefest volunteer can call 403-872-3361 or email info@centrefest.ca.

More information about this year’s festival is available at www.centrefest.ca.


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Festival director Janice Shimek, left, and board chair Jan Penney want Centrefest to continue beyond 2019. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

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