Crowds take in carnival mood

It felt like a carnival along Ross Street and Gaetz Avenue this weekend as jugglers, dancers and even a sword swallower took to the streets in downtown Red Deer.

A member of the Edmonton based Hip-Hop Dance group Freshly Squeezed shows the crowd some dance moves during a performance at Centrefest on Red Deer’s Ross Street over the weekend. Centrefest ran Saturday and Sunday and featured 20 street performers from around the world.

It felt like a carnival along Ross Street and Gaetz Avenue this weekend as jugglers, dancers and even a sword swallower took to the streets in downtown Red Deer.

The seventh annual Centrefest drew thousands of spectators from around Central Alberta to watch groups like Edmonton’s Freshly Squeezed do flips in the air and perform their hip hop moves. Rob Williams showed the audience how to make a sandwich with his feet and recruited someone to take a bite and Silver Elvis sparkled like a disco ball in the sunshine.

Environment Canada reported a temperature of 31 C Saturday, but at least one car temperature gauge recorded a reading as high as 36 C in downtown Red Deer on Saturday, as people crowded into whatever shady spot they could find. It was cooler on Sunday with a high of 25 C.

Andrew Elliott, from Sydney, Australia, was one of the street performers who showcased his skills as a magician, sword swallower and comedian Saturday afternoon, often pulling people from the crowd to be part of his routine.

Dressed in a purple and orange outfit, with a red turban, he caught people’s eye.

Elliott then made audience member Kris Zackowski’s ring and watch disappear and at the end of the routine reappear in a can of chickpeas in a locked container on the other side of the stage.

“That was an amazing experience,” Zackowski said afterwards. She said she goes to Centrefest every year with her family because everyone enjoys the street performers and it gives her children an appreciation for the arts.

Elliott has been working as a street performer since 1985 and has travelled throughout Europe and Canada. He said for him it is a lifestyle choice that gives him the freedom and ability to travel. He learned many of his skills after graduating from high school and heading to India as an 18-year-old. He loved magic as a child and in India he expanded on his repertoire, as he got to know street magicians, snake charmers and monkey trainers and they shared their tricks with each other.

Skills of all sorts were showcased Saturday and Sunday, including the tight-rope balancing and juggling of Pete Sweet, of San Francisco, California, and the sketching ability of Edmonton-based artist Simon Glassman.

Karli Kendall and her boyfriend Lee Weselak, both of Red Deer, got a caricature done of themselves on Saturday by Glassman.

The couple’s caricature showcased Weselak dressed as Hans Solo from Star Wars and Kendall as Princess Leia in a gold bikini. “That’s the only way I’ll wear one of those,” Kendall joked.

She liked that many of the streets were closed down and people were able to walk around.

“It’s nice to be able to wander around and check out the shops. If you’re driving you miss a lot of it,” Kendall said.

Glassman expected to create well over 100 charicatures at a cost of $12 for one person or $18 for two during the two days he is at Centrefest. The Grant MacEwan student is studying motion image and video technology and has been drawing since he could pick up a pencil.

Esterina Manyluk, Centrefest festival co-ordinator, didn’t have an exact tally of festival goers this year, but she said the event went really well. She said there is a greater knowledge of Centrefest each year.

There were voluntary donation barrels this year to support Centrefest and Manyluk said organizers were really pleased with people’s response.

She said she was thankful for all of the support from the board, 150 volunteers, the City of Red Deer, the businesses and corporate community, as well as the audience of Central Albertans who contributed to the performers.

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