Organizers with Red Deer’s Centennial Committee were extremely disappointed to announce that a key event planned for this weekend had to be cancelled due to flooding.
The River of Light, which was set to run Sunday evening, would have seen hundreds of lit up rain barrels floating down the Red Deer River – a highlight of a weekend that was packed with various centennial events.
But due to the recent flooding, Bower Ponds and Great Chief Park among other areas will remain closed through July 1. The internationally-acclaimed UK based artistic studio Creatmosphere had designed the spectacle, and the event was meant to this celebrates Red Deer’s connection to the river both historically and today.
“In spite of the fact that things could be lovely on Sunday and Monday, the decision is based on today. And the decision is that the river is closed and Bower Ponds will remain closed through July 1. Great Chief Park will be reclosed through July 1 as well,” said a tearful Sheila Bannerman, chair of centennial committee.
“For us, this means that all of our currently available locations for this event are unavailable.”
Bannerman stressed that City has promised to work with the committee in finding alternative locations for the weekend’s events.
“At this point, we have no idea what that would be. We will be making some assessments this afternoon and be doing some serious thinking.”
Bannerman said plans for the River of Light in particular had been going on for one year. “Our team from England was here last year to do a site assessment, and at that time the river was lovely. It looked like it would be perfect.”
Considerable amount of time has since gone into planning, to ensure the event would have been multi-dimensional, multi-location predicated on the assumption the river would be at normal flow.
This coming weekend, called the Homecoming Festival, marks the mid-point in Red Deer’s centennial year. Unfortunately, the River of Light can’t be postponed because the creative team from England has to move onto other projects in other countries, said Bannerman.
“Last week when they arrived, it was full steam ahead. Suddenly, the river rose and the ponds flooded. The river came to us in a way we didn’t expect.”
Weekend highlights also include a pancake breakfast, a Centennial Grove dedication, an evening barbecue with entertainment from local band St. James’ Gate and an outdoor movie.
“The City will be working with us to find alternate locations for those events. They are extremely likely to go ahead. But time may change because the venues will change.” The public is asked to visit www.reddeer2013.ca for updates on the latest as to when and where particular events will be held. Residents can also check out the committee’s web site page for more information as well.
Bannerman did point out that the River of Light souvenir rain barrels (with lights) are available for sale. Check out www.reddeer2013.ca for more details.
“They are very, very beautiful. It might be the saving grace of this whole operation is if people buy all of the barrels and they all become rainwater barrels. That would be our environmental message – that we can all recycle, and we can all use our water in productive ways. Barrel sales will continue until they are all gone.
“We may not be able to showcase them in as significant a way, but they are still for sale and it would really help us a lot if people would buy them.”
Bannerman said up until this point, centennial celebrations have been a success and community participation and support has been strong.
Meanwhile, centennial celebrations are also planned to continue through the rest of the year. July highlights include Westerner Days which begins with the parade on July 17. More than 30,000 people are expected to line the streets of downtown Red Deer on July 17 at 9:30 a.m. to enjoy the decorated floats and vehicles, collector vehicles, local celebrities, marching bands and livestock entries
Things continue right on into the autumn, with an old-fashioned fall fair at Fort Normandeau on Sept. 21.
Rounding out the year, a Fire and Ice Centennial Closing Ceremony and Lantern Parade runs at City Hall Park on Dec. 12. That evening, people are encouraged to bring all of these lanterns to City Hall Park to essentially light up the night.