Binny Dhody, a vendor at CentreFest, uses cinderblocks and chairs to hold down a tarp on his table during the event Saturday. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

Weather hurts CentreFest on Saturday

Heavy winds and a severe thunderstorm warning had CentreFest attendees running for cover.

After a very busy Taste of Red Deer event Friday night, which was co-hosted by CentreFest at Gary W. Harris Celebration Plaza, central Alberta’s largest street performer festival hit a snag when the weather worsened around 1 p.m. Saturday.

“It started out as a great day, but unfortunately we got this wind,” said event director Janice Shimek.

READ MORE: Severe thunderstorm warning in effect for Red Deer, central Alberta

Shimek said some of the vendors’ tents were damaged by the wind, but event staff acted quickly and ensured everyone was safe.

“We have protocol for what to do in a situation like this. We made sure all the banners went down, then we helped all the vendors and lowered those flags so no one would get hit with them,” she said.

This year’s performers are “really entertaining,” so it’s disappointing the weather cancelled some performances, Shimek added.

“It’s heartbreaking in a lot of ways because we work so hard to put this together. It’s not just something that we lead up to, we work on this all year.”

This is the first year Taste of Red Deer was part of CentreFest – traditionally the event, featuring 15 central Alberta food vendors, has been part of the Festival of Trees in the winter.

“We had record crowds – the plaza was absolutely plugged with people. We learned a lot, every time you do something new you learn and have some takeaways,” she said.

“There were a couple restaurants that sold out within an hour. They had no idea they were going to sell so much, so fast. The circus shows were crowded and … all we would have to do is show a few crowd pictures to people and they’d wonder why they weren’t here last night.”

Money raised at Taste of Red Deer goes toward purchasing equipment for the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

READ MORE: Centrefest is set to dazzle — despite some financial fizzle

Shimek said there is still some uncertainty regarding the future of CentreFest.

“We have a lot of money we have to raise and I think we are going to have a shortfall this year, so we’re going to have to look at how we’re going to make up that money in the fall.

“If we’re successful with grants and if sponsors step up then we should be good to go next year.”

The event continues Sunday. For more information visit

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Some CentreFest attendees stuck through the initial heavy winds to watch street performers Saturday. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

Tyler Adin and Mandy Hewitt, both of Red Deer, eat poutine during CentreFest Saturday. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

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