Story by John Watson
The largest free-admission festival in Alberta returned to Grande Prairie for its 19th summer of entertaining people of all ages Friday to Sunday.
The return to Grande Prairie followed the festival’s appearance in Sexsmith and Beaverlodge, welcoming world-class performers who tour Canada over the summer.
“It got started with an idea between myself and (co-chair Clyde Blackburn) and we got together and created a partnership with the Edmonton Street Performers Festival,” said Wayne Ayling, co-founder and chairman for the festival.
The 22 appearing acts included Sweden’s Got Talent 2009 winner Charlie Caper, Italy’s Sara Cwojdzinski (Dr. Skita), Australia’s Alakazam, and American comics “Her Majesty’s Secret Circus.”
“It’s all about comedy, it’s all about family fun and we’re very happy to have been doing this for 19 years,” said Ayling.
“It’s one of those events where you’re going to see what people in Italy see, what people in Saudi Arabia see, and Australia, Europe, the United States— you really get a taste of what is talent out under the sun.”
Ayling boasted Grande Prairie’s behind-the-scenes hospitality.
“It’s the only place in the world where the souvenir T-shirts have a caricature of every performer (and) every artist,” he said, among hosting an array of distinct Canadian niceties.
With a host of acts appearing from all around the globe, local acts were not left out of the spotlight, as the festival featured eight native Albertan performers such as Grande Prairie locals Amanda Panda and Marcia Tofer.
Tofer is bringing three whimsical personalities to the festival, including a super luminous space alien from the future, a spinning unicorn who connects easily with children and a goat lady who has lost her kid.
“All of them have different backstories,” said Tofer.
“(The unicorn) was mainly because I wanted to be experienced street performing, and I had actually made a Halloween costume and then turned it into a street character.”
Being a more private person, Tofer said these characters present for her a more boisterous way of interacting with people and appeal to an audience.
“I like seeing how my characters’ interactions improve and change over the years, and it feels like a really unique way to connect with people,” she said.