From a puck-sized tarantula to towering Clydesdales, Westerner Days offered a wide choice to opening day visitors who wanted to see something out of the ordinary.
Viktor Zielke, of Red Deer, said it had been many years since he saw a Clydesdale up close and the size of the Express Clydesdales was impressive. He saw the six hitch headlining Westerner Days Parade and said they performed “like a well-oiled machine.”
“They are just massive, but they’re so gentle the way they’re trained and looked after,” said Zielke who had his picture taken with Brock the Express Clydesdale on Wednesday.
The Clydesdale’s shoulder was about 1.8 metres (six feet) from the ground and its hooves were the size of dinner plates.
Each horse weighs about 900 kilograms (2,000 pounds) and consumes about 5.4 kilograms (12 pounds) of feed, six kilograms (13 pounds) of hay and 136 litres (30 gallons) of water in a day.
Coach rides from a team of two Clydesdales were available at the fair only on Wednesday to help raise money for Kid Sport Red Deer, a program that provides financial assistance and sports equipment for disadvantaged youth.
As ambassadors for Express Employment Professionals, the rare black and white Clydesdales have been competing and touring around North America since 1999.
On July 6, one of the Express geldings named Danny won Best in Show in the heavy horse competition at the Calgary Stampede.
2015 Westerner Days marked the Express Clydesdales’ first trip to the Red Deer fair and it’s been many years since the breed has been in the local parade.
“What I most enjoyed was the big eyes from the little kids and the older people, probably in their 70s and 80s, who haven’t seen a heavy horse like this in a very long time. They are world-class animals,” said Curtis Debogorski, owner of the Express Employment Professionals Red Deer franchise.
Elsewhere at Westerner Days, Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo, of Ottawa, was educating and entertaining people by introducing them to Fluffy the tarantula, Stretch the coastal carpet python, Luigi the dingo, and Austin the red kangaroo.
Many people took the opportunity to meet and pet Austin and Luigi.
Ryder Moberg, 9, said he had never even seen a photo of a dingo before and Luigi had very soft fur.
“In my opinion it kind of looks like a small dog,” said Moberg who learned dingos are a member of the wolf family and therefore hard to train.
Luke Knowles, outreach educator and zoo keeper, cradled the 11-month-old kangaroo in his arms while people were allowed to pet the kangaroo’s back.
He said people can’t resist Austin.
“He’s our cute little baby. Everyone absolutely loves him,” Knowles said.
“People do love our reptile shows. But we love to bring things for people who aren’t so much of a reptile fan.”
He said introducing people to animals from Australia is one way to teach them about animal conservation and protecting the environment.
“Australia has such a diverse ecosystem and it’s very fragile as well. It’s one we really need to take care of.”
Little Ray’s Australia show runs each day at Westerner Days at 2, 4 and 6:30 p.m. at Zed 98.9 & KG Country 95.5 Adventure Alley.