Barrhead in Wonderland!
Hundreds from all over the area pack downtown for spectacular Street Festival
For a day, downtown Barrhead became a wonderland where anything seemed possible.
There were stick-legged giants who roamed Main Street in multi-coloured costumes like medieval jesters. They called themselves Twinkle, Bubbles, Sparkle and Kodiak and wore glittering masks and three-pointed hats with jingle bells.
There were joyful children everywhere with painted faces, some sporting cats’ whiskers and drooping crimson tongues, others with the look of superheroes like the Incredible Hulk.
There was Aaron, an enormous blue heron, ready to take any passing child under his wing for a few seconds and a huge A &W bear with the friendliest hug imaginable.
There were also air-filled characters of every description and colour created at lightning speed by a wizard known as Dan the Balloon Man.
Yes, there was magic in Barrhead during Saturday’s Street Festival. It was as if a children’s fairytale had come to life and all the innocent wonders captured in brightly illustrated pages were suddenly real and could be seen, heard and even touched.
It was a day of smiling and laughing, a day when anger and cynicism had no place.
Adults as much as youngsters could find something to delight and entertain. It could have been paintball shooting or a merchant market selling everything from flowers and jewellery to glass and crockery. Or it could have been a booth promoting Victorian pleasure parties.
It could have been the pie-eating contest on a flat deck outside Dennis Donkers’ Barrhead Bakery, always a huge crowd pleaser. Or it could have been the simple pleasure of sitting back with an ice cream or cup of coffee and watching a sea of smiling faces.
How many came to the annual festival? It was hard to tell. From the moment the first pancake breakfast was served at the Gazebo at 9 a.m. to the late afternoon after the 3:30 p.m. draw for grand prizes, hundreds had filled Main Street.
There were many who came from surrounding communities like Thunder Lake and Lac La Nonne. Some drove 100 kilometres from Edmonton or Whitecourt. Surprisingly, there were also quite a few from Westlock, which was holding “Wacky Saturday.”
The weather was mainly dry and cool, perhaps a little chilly for those expecting another sun-baked day. Occasionally there were spots of rain, but nothing more than that.
Festival committee chair Carol Farnalls was delighted with the response to the event, which again carried an old-fashioned penny carnival theme.
Among the attractions were pony rides, a petting zoo, bouncy castles, free helium balloons, a firefighter’s competition for children, carnival games for kids, POW paintball, art club show and sale, photo club show, and Fyfe’s Stomp Rockets.
The stilt walkers were again a highlight. At about 10 feet tall, they helped more than anything to create a fairytale atmosphere. Few could resist the temptation of being photographed next to them.
From the National Stilt Walkers of Canada, they were head, shoulders and sometimes knees above everyone else. One of them, Mariann Sinkovics, called herself Bubbles. Originally from Hungary, she has been doing it about a year.
“Everybody down below looks very sweet and vulnerable,” she laughed.
From 11:30 a.m. onwards the flat deck opposite Barrhead Bakery attracted plenty of attention, firstly with doughnut decorating, an activity that completely engrossed four-year-old Keira Roska. She seemed oblivious to everything around her as she kept adding sprinkles to her doughnut.
“She loves doing it,” said mother, Janet. “She loves all colours, but her favourite colour is blue. At home she is always decorating cookies and helping out in the kitchen.”
Then came the pie-eating contest. Donkers challenged adults to give it a go and found a willing competitor in Dani Holmberg.
Trying to stuff away a pie in the fastest time is usually a male preserve, so Dani’s participation added extra interest. And she got off to a great start.
Finally, however, she was left ruing her choice of chocolate. “It was a really bad decision,” she laughed. “But it was good fun. I’ve wanted to do it all my life.”
Also well attended were the petting zoo and pony rides near the gazebo.
Four-year-old Jessica Urwin, from Edmonton, couldn’t get enough of riding. After each ride, she appealed to her mother for another one. When The Leader left the riding area, Jessica was starting her third ride.
Mayor Brian Schulz described the festival as a fantastic way to kick off the summer. “The nicest part was coming downtown and seeing so many people enjoying themselves,” he said.
Schulz thanked downtown business people and the Chamber of Commerce.
“There are hidden jewels down Main Street and it’s wonderful that people have a chance to discover them,” he said.
By late afternoon the crowds had thinned in Main Street. People drifted away, holding balloons, prizes, market purchases or simply memories of a good time. The sky remained overcast, but there was sunshine in everyone’s hearts after another spectacular festival that seems to get bigger and better each year.
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