Canada Day is always an important and festive event across the nation. The holiday not only marks the anniversary of Confederation; for many it is also the celebration of the start of summer.
The Dominion/Canada Day festivities have always been popular in Red Deer. The first were organized in 1891, a few months after the townsite of Red Deer was created on the new Calgary-Edmonton rail line. At that inaugural event, and for many decades afterwards, the main feature of the holiday was a community sports day.
Over time, the emphasis has shifted. The main athletics event, now held on the weekend before the Canada Day long weekend, is the annual Highland Games, which has been organized every year in Red Deer since 1947.
Since 1969, the main July 1 festivities in Red Deer have consisted of the Cultural Heritage Society’s annual Canada Day/Folk Festival event, which is held at the Cronquist House and Bower Ponds.
This year, however, the Canada Day long weekend will be particularly noteworthy as it will also feature the main community celebrations of Red Deer’s 100 anniversary of incorporation as a City. It is therefore interesting to reflect back to 1913 and the first Dominion Day celebrations held after Red Deer officially became a city.
In the lead-up to the holiday, there was an official competition for best window displays by the local businesses. Some of those displays were very elaborate.
For example, the Gaetz Cornett Drug and Book Store had all four of its front windows decorated. The first consisted of a display of cameras and accessories. The second had a moving set of model automobiles, horse-drawn rigs and busses, making their way to the Red Deer celebrations. The third window featured Sylvan Lake and included a tent, hammock, and camping gear as well as a model motor boat and dock. The fourth window displayed all the prizes for the Dominion Day sports events and parade.
The morning of July 1 literally started off with a bang. There was a trap-shooting competition with more than 60 entrants, from across Alberta and one from Spokane, Washington. That was followed by an elaborate parade, which started at the Central School grounds and made its way to the City Square next to City Hall.
There were patriotic addresses by Mayor F.W. Galbraith and other dignitaries. The assembled school children sang O Canada and the Maple Leaf Forever as the Canadian Ensign flag was raised. The Citizens’ Band provided a number of musical selections.
The crowd then moved to the fairgrounds where the sporting events were staged. These included regional soccer and baseball competitions. There were also a number of track and field events and several horse races. Special features were sporting contests and demonstrations by the 35 Central Alberta Horse of the local militia.
There was a thunder and hailstorm in the early evening, but fortunately it happened between the end of the sports competitions and the start of the evening program at the City Square.
The Citizens’ Band provided another concert. At nightfall, a large bonfire was lit. The festivities concluded with a rousing rendition of O Canada followed by a spectacular fireworks display. All who were present agreed that Red Deer had just celebrated one of the best Dominion Days ever.
For more information on the 2013 Canada Day long weekend celebrations, visit the Red Deer Centennial Committee web site at www.reddeer2013.ca