Westerner Days, in its 124th year, began in Red Deer today and officials said there is much excitement in the community.
Westerner Days runs through until July 19th.
“Everything is in full swing,” said Meghan Gustum, marketing manager at Westerner Park. “This time of year is always an exciting time of year. Westerner Days is a big event on everyone’s calendar. It’s really about bringing the community together and it’s an opportunity to celebrate and to enjoy each other together. It’s always a good time, it’s a lot of fun and it’s relaxed. We put on the big city event with the small town hospitality.”
This year’s theme plays on the agriculture aspect of Westerner Days. Organizers are hoping people come out and ‘horse around’ on the midway, ‘pig out’ in the Grub Hub and ‘groove to the mooosic’ on the main stage.
“It’s all about having fun and being a little ‘punny’ with our campaign,” said Gustum.
This year’s midway includes 40 rides, provided by North American Midway, including 18 thrill rides, 13 family rides and nine kiddie rides. There are a number of entertainers that will be featured on the main stage in the Centrium as well including Wide Mouth Mason and Big Sugar on July 15th, The Headpins and Platinum Blonde on July 16th, High Valley and The Road Hammers on July 17th, and The Boom Chucka Boys, Lindsay Ell and Kira Isabella on July 18th.
Concerts start at 8 p.m. with the doors opening at 7 p.m.
All concerts are free of charge with gate admission and seating is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“This year we are really excited because we have 10 acts over five nights on our main stage,” said Gustum. “The public was telling us that they wanted free entertainment and this year we are really delivering.
“Once you’re on the grounds, we don’t want you to have to pay for too much extra. The event is geared to families so we want to make it easy for them to come and enjoy the fair without spending too much money.”
There is also nightly entertainment in The Ranch which includes Steve Arsenault on July 15th, The Dungarees on July 16th, Dirt Road Angels on July 17th, and Randi Boulton on July 18th.
The Aussie Rules Duelling Pianos will also play in the Twisted Tea Saloon from July 15th-18th.
Another new aspect of this year’s Westerner Days will be a Morning of Faith on July 19th – a non-denominational service before the grounds open to the general public. The contemporary Christian band KUTLESS will perform at 3 p.m. in the Centrium.
“We will open the grounds at 9:30 a.m. for anyone wishing to attend the 10:30 a.m. service,” said Gustum. “We will not be charging admission at that point, however parking fees will still be in effect. Guests would then be welcome to stay on the grounds and enjoy the rest of the afternoon at the fair.”
Guests are also encouraged to bring a non-perishable donation for the Red Deer and District Food Bank with them to the service.
Meanwhile, last year, 92,872 people attended Westerner Days, which was slightly down from the previous year. “We didn’t have great weather last year and we are definitely trying for higher attendance this year – we always try and hit that 100,000 mark.”
In addition, for many, Westerner Days is an annual tradition, however, it is not on the event calendar for some Central Albertans due to illness.
Continuing the ‘Share the Fair’ program, Westerner Days offers the opportunity for sick kids to have the experience. Various entertainers of this year’s event will visit the Ronald McDonald House Central Alberta and the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre on July 16th to perform for patients and their families.
“It is at events like Westerner Days that childhood memories are created and last for years to come,” said Gustum. “We are pleased to offer a program that allows all kids, regardless if they can physically attend our event or not, the opportunity to create those same memories.”
As well, for many families, due to financial constraints, they are unable to attend the fair. In 2013, Westerner Park created the ‘We All Play’ program. The program provided 100 families with complimentary admission and parking to Westerner Days.
Passes were distributed through Family Services of Central Alberta to families who would otherwise not be able to attend. Last year the program expanded, and families with Aspire Special Needs Resource Centre will also have the opportunity to take a much-needed break from the day-to-day demands of a child with special needs and play.
For more information, visit www.westernerdays.ca.