Westerner Days is kicking it up a notch with dinosaurs, dancing and a dunk tank to take aim at local celebrities.
“We really tried to elevate Westerner Days this year. It doesn’t matter who you are. There’s something for you to do,” said marketing and communications assistant manager Ashley Nelson.
Westerner Days Fair and Exposition, which runs Wednesday to next Sunday, has a new and bigger ferris wheel, fresh activities and food vendors, and upgrades to the free concerts.
Nelson said this year, there will only be seven rows of seats on the floor in front of the TD mainstage to make way for dancing. Cabaret-style tables will be set up elsewhere, along with drink stations.
“We found that a lot of people were getting out of their chairs and dancing at the back anyways. People can now move around and they can dance. We just wanted it to be more fun.”
Seating in the stands will still be available.
An interactive line dancing performance at 7:45 p.m. before the country music show on Thursday will get the audience prepped for the concert featuring Jason Benoit and Arron Goodvin.
A VIP Date Night has also been added Thursday. Couples can reserve a ride on a new amusement, receive treats such as a rose and chocolate-covered strawberries, and be invited to a viewing suite, with a private bar and food, for the country music mainstage concert.
Nelson said last year, there were questions from visitors about what couples could do. More than half the tickets to VIP Date Night are already sold.
“With the new Euro Wheel coming, it was a good opportunity for us to showcase it and allow people to have that exclusive ride.”
On Friday night, visitors can join in Glow Night at the mainstage concert with glow-in-the-dark swag and furniture.
“The Forum is doing a performance with luminescent hula hoops and aerials, ground acrobats and dancing before the concert.”
Dancers will also perform at 8:30 and 9:10 p.m. intermissions during the concert featuring Streetheart, Headpins and Holly Woods & Toronto.
New interactive exhibits include Dinosaurs Unearthed: Predator versus Prey, with 26 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs and more than 20 fossils, and laser tag in the new Exhibition Hall.
“This is the first time we’ll use Exhibition Hall. It helps us grow with the community and bring new, fun, exciting things to Westerner Days,” Nelson said.
The new Charity Dunk Tank will be set up outside the Centrium.
“People really enjoy getting to dunk their local celebrities. The community has really come together for it.”
Among the 26 food vendors at the midway’s Grub Hub, there are three new food trucks — Drink A Fruit From A Fruit, where drinks are served in fresh coconut, watermelon and pineapple shells; The Sugar Shop, with its huge selection of cotton candy flavours; and The Crazy Italian, with delights such as pizza poutine.
New art displays will be set up around the park, such as an umbrella display in Exhibition Hall, where people can snap photos to tag #myWDexperience for a chance to win a $2,500-travel voucher from Red Deer Airport.
A Bucket List has also been added to the Westerner Days pocket guide that people can get stamped when they visit nine attractions. Prizes include a $500 travel voucher from Edmonton Airport with a pricey gift basket.
“We wanted to try and give people an opportunity to move around the park and really see things — see everything they can. A lot of families have their usual routine and sometimes miss things,” Nelson said.