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Smiles on the streets at CentreFest

Years of training, perfecting and experimenting go in to the 30 minute performances that delighted crowds and put smiles on the faces of onlookers at this year’s CentreFest.

Years of training, perfecting and experimenting go in to the 30 minute performances that delighted crowds and put smiles on the faces of onlookers at this year’s CentreFest.

Six stationary street performers and four roving street performers highlighted a fun-filled weekend in downtown Red Deer for the annual CentreFest.

CentreFest Artistic Director Bob Palmer has worked the street performer circuit for years as Flying Bob and has established many relationships in the industry, which helps attract performers to the annual Red Deer show.

“I check out other festivals, I go online and I know all these people so I have connections all over the world,” said Palmer. “I try to get together with other festivals so we can bring in the same artists to Canada and share the costs to make it a tour for the performers.”

Youtube and word of mouth are powerful tools to promote acts and determine who would be entertaining for the festival.

One of the younger faces in the performer lineup is Schuyler Snowdon, a stilt-walker who went with a butterfly catcher look.

The 26-year-old started as a juggler, but he volunteered at Palmer’s circus camps in Red Deer and started learning how to stilt-walk.

“At all these festivals there are face-painters and I noticed all these kids with butterflies on their cheeks,” said Snowdon. “I was walking around thinking it would be a lot of fun if I had a net and went catching kids with butterflies on their faces. That’s how I developed the character.”

The butterfly catcher look is just one of several Snowdon uses, as he was also seen using a bank robber on stilts character Saturday.

On top of being a roving performer he helped out at the circus workshop tent, a place where people can learn some of the skills such as juggling or stilt-walking that circus acts use.

“I rove, I do street performing and I do stage and I like all of it for very different reasons,” said Snowdon. “Street is wonderful because it is incredibly honest. Your audience can just leave at any time, so it’s very imperative you be very good. There is stuff you can get away with on stage that you can’t get away with on the street.”

Geoff Cobb, or Thom Sellectomy — his stage name — used to be a circus clown. He went to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Clown College out of high school and worked for two years on the circus. But now he has taken to swallowing swords and hammering nails up his nose.

“I was dumb enough to do it,” said Cobb. “What else am I going to do at this point. I’m 42, this is all I’ve ever done.”

It took Cobb about six months to learn how to swallow a sword.

“You kind of throw up over and over,” said Cobb. “Sword swallowing is really anatomy and the abuse thereof. Once your head is tipped back its a straight shot down your esophagus.”

For John Park, who performed his funny waiter routine at CentreFest, he started as a comedy juggler and still incorporates some of that to his routine. But he noticed that some of his audience participation bits had a food and drink theme to them, so he took on the persona of a waiter. It happened organically and now he runs with it.

“The neat thing about street performing is we show up some place and there’s nothing happening,” said Cobb. “All of a sudden you get people around you and out of nothing we’ve created a big thing.”

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com