By Michael Dawe
Red Deer Express
On July 1st, 1967, the City of Red Deer held its official celebration of the centennial of Canadian confederation.
Large crowds turned out for the festivities at the Red Deer Exhibition grounds.
There was a parade in front of the grandstand, followed by musical entertainments and speeches by the attending dignitaries. There was also a fly-past by a group of R.C.A.F. Starfighter planes.
The day was a success. However, for many in the community, there were equally important Centennial celebrations during the annual Red Deer Exhibition at the beginning of August.
A great deal of time and effort was spent getting ready for the special event.
The Red Deer Exhibition Association had been struggling for some time with a shortage of facilities on the fairgrounds. Consequently, a decision was made to construct a new multi-purpose building on the southwest corner of the grounds.
This building, which was later named the Kinex in recognition of significant financial support from the Red Deer Kinsmen Club, was to be used for livestock and other exhibits during the fair. In the winter time, it was to be used as an indoor hockey facility.
However, due to numerous financial constraints and problems with provincial grants, the building was quite austere. Moreover, construction was late getting started.
The contractors barely met the deadline of having the new structure ready in time for the fair.
Despite this challenge, the Red Deer Exhibition was ready to start the festivities with a bang on Tuesday, Aug. 1st.
As in past years, the first morning saw a grand parade through the downtown core.
The parade was led by 100 scarlet-coated RCMP officers, followed by the vehicles carrying the various dignitaries. Special guests included the mayor and other elected officials from Cap-de-Madeleine in Quebec.
That city had been formally twinned with Red Deer as a centennial year initiative. It was a relationship that was to last for many years to come.
There were scores of special floats, all kinds of antique cars, numerous assemblages of horses and 11 bands. The local media estimated that a record 50,000 people turned out to watch the grand parade.
Attention then turned to the events at the fairgrounds. Several thousand people flocked to fairgrounds to take in the attractions, entertainments and displays.
In the evening, there were the opening heats of the nightly chuckwagon races.
That was followed by a grandstand variety show dubbed the Centennial Follies. The day closed with a special fireworks display that included blazing Canada Maple Leaf and Centennial flags.
The next day, Children’s Day, was another huge success.
More than 8,000 children and their parents crammed the grandstand and surrounding bleachers for a special afternoon of entertainment. Large crowds were again present in the evening for the chuckwagon races and the Centennial Follies.
Attendance continued to be strong in the following days as the weather remained warm and sunny.
The week ended with a massive, record-breaking turn-out on Saturday.
People took in a special fly-past by the R.C.A.F.’s Golden Centennaires aerobatic performance team on Saturday evening. The Exhibition closed with one of the largest fireworks displays ever staged by the Exhibition.
Overall, the 1967 Centennial Exhibition was an enormous success.
A new attendance record of 66,567 was set for the full five days, a particularly impressive number when one remembers that the total population of the City at the time was 26,000.
The happiness over the Centennial Fair was only dinted by some problems on the midway.
A burlesque tent, ‘Midnight in Paris’ was raided by the police after complaints about the morality of the show. There was also a large marijuana bust at a local motel. The police reported that the culprits were out-of-town people who had come in with the midway.