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Downtown Business Spotlight: CanWest Travel Company

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For this week’s Business Spotlight, we stopped into CanWest Travel Company. Located at 5018 50 St (Ross Street), CanWest Travel Company has been part of downtown for over 24 years! We sat down with, managing partner, Joanne Walokoff, to learn more.

 

What is your business?

CanWest Travel, a retail business agency.

When did you open?

1996.

What would you say makes your business unique?

We’re the only one downtown, I believe. We serve all of Central Alberta. We used to have a location in the south as well. We specialize in African travel, and we custom design any trip that people want—whereas other traditional travel agencies will sell packages that are already put together. But we love to customize plans for people, make it their own.

What are some products/services that you offer?

We are full retail, so we sell airline tickets, do hotel bookings, all-inclusive packages, cruises, coach tours, expeditions tours, expedition cruises, lots of niche products like polar bear adventures—that sort of thing. That is what full service is, I guess.

Why did you choose Downtown Red Deer as the location for your business?

Well my brother and I are partners here, and we are from Red Deer, so we just wanted to be in the center, in the heart. This is our third location in Red Deer, but we’ve always had a location downtown and we just love the people that are down here and want to see it thrive.

What do you think makes Downtown vibrant?

I think it’s the mix of people, and the mix of businesses—people coming for lots of different reasons; for hair, for groceries, for travel, for banking… lots of different services, shopping, dining. It just has a lot to offer and City Hall Park is a beautiful place to hang out, have some lunch. Ross Street Patio is always fun, the market is great. People are coming down if its once a week or once a month, there is still something to draw them to the heart of Red Deer.

I love Downtown Red Deer because… it is home for us. We don’t live downtown but we work downtown, and the majority of our time is here, and it’s been successful for us. And we do enjoy the diversity of people. We see a lot of the people from C.A.R.E. go by and have served a lot of them. We collect clothes and housewares for new immigrants and refugees in our basement, and we have volunteers at TGSL. We get a lot of those people that come in that we meet and welcome them, so they have a comfortable place in town. I just love a lot of things about it, even some of the street people are so awesome, it just makes it more unique. Lots of people are scared to come downtown and I am so shocked by that, really, people are harmless. So, I love downtown because it’s our home, and we’ve made it our home. It’s not big and concrete either, like downtown Edmonton. It’s big and busy—I like that it’s small and more cozy, intimate. And lots of small businesses, which is nice. If you look across the street you can see four other businesses.

 

Be sure to check out CanWest Travel Company for your next vacation! You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Website: https://canwest.travel/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CanWestTravel/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/canwesttravelcompany/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/canwesttravel

We serve approximately 500 businesses and property owners in Downtown Red Deer, Alberta. Our Mission is to build an engaged Downtown community, develop a Downtown brand and enhance the Downtown experience.

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The Ross Street Patio – A Summer to Remember

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“If you wish to make a space safe and vibrant you must occupy that space.”

If you happened to visit the Ross Street Patio installation over the summer, you likely would have seen just that; a vibrancy that was created through positive, collaborative engagement. 

 

  The Ross Street Patio installation has been a mainstay in Red Deer’s downtown for close to a decade. The area, located on the north lanes of Ross Street adjacent to the Cenotaph Park offers beautiful greenery in the form of planters, flowers and trees as well as patio tables with umbrellas and benches. Each year the City of Red Deer with the support of the Downtown Business Association create this lovely space for citizens to gather and enjoy a coffee or snack, enjoy programming in the form of live music and other entertainment, and take in the sights and sounds of a more bustling city centre. 

  The summer of 2020 saw a massive increase in foot traffic to the area, possibly more than any summers in the past. The spring was a time of uncertainty for many of the businesses in the area, and the restaurants in the area were making preparations to open their doors to the public after being closed for months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Restaurants and bars were given the green light to reopen their doors in late May and by early June most had.

   Over the course of the following few weeks, these businesses began setting up their own patios within the boundaries of the Ross St. Patio. Tribe, Tacoloft, Occam’s Razor, and The Velvet Olive Lounge/Capitol Package Store are all very different food and beverage joints with one thing in common: they were all neighbors sharing the same uncertainty. 

   And then, it happened. What began as a conversation on the patio with Kyle Key, owner of the Olive and the Capitol Package Store, and musician Paeton Cameron, and a few others, became what would be remembered as one of the greatest summers on the Ross Street Patio to date.

   The Velvet Olive had previously been “the spot” for live music downtown. With open mic nights for musicians to have space to show off their talents, and other live music events weekly. Unfortunately due to the Covid-19 pandemic these live music venues were prohibited from showcasing live music inside their establishments, leaving musicians with essentially nowhere to play, and left music lovers longing to hear live music again. 

 “Let’s do it outside.” 

   It was a thought, then a conversation, and then it was happening. On a warm Thursday night, Kyle, Paeton, and friends put up a tent directly in front of the restaurants, plugged in a couple speakers, and invited musicians to sign up for the first ever “Open Mic Night” – outdoors, on the Ross Street Patio. It didn’t take long before the people began to gather, safely and respectfully, to listen to the live music they had been starved of for months. And it didn’t take long for the other businesses to see the benefits and reap the rewards. By the following Thursday, Tribe, Tacoloft, and Occam’s Razor all offered to support the live music by pitching in on costs, promotions, and maintaining the space. Before long there were up to 3 live music events per week that were programmed by the businesses. This was in addition to the programming created by the DBA and made the Ross Street Patio the most popular space in town. And the businesses all reported a remarkable increase in foot traffic and sales as a result of its popularity. Over the next few months the area had garnered such attention that photographers and film crews began attending to document the successes, and the citizens of Red Deer were calling to make reservations at the establishments, sometimes weeks in advance. 

  One of the last great events to take place on the “Ross Street Stage” was a collaboration between the 4 businesses, four breweries, and 11 local musicians. The “Save Our Stages – Originals Open Mic” night on Sept 18 was broadcast live over the internet. Each of the 11 musicians was invited to play 3 songs, all originals, to the excited crowd that filled the seats of the businesses’ patios and the Ross Street Patio seating. Filmed and broadcast by the team at Hot Shoe Studio the event was a huge success, culminating in a show of support by the local RCMP. As the sun set, approx 10-12 RCMP patrol vehicles slowly passed the Ross Street Patio with lights flashing and sirens sounding as a salute to the citizens of Red Deer and the businesses for doing their part to make the downtown safe and vibrant, by occupying that space. The cheers were deafening, and the tears of joy were real. What a summer, and what a city.

 Thanks to the City of Red Deer for providing the space. Thanks to the Downtown Business Association for the support and additional programming. Thanks to the businesses for breaking down their silos and working together for the greater cause. And thanks to the citizens of Red Deer for showing up, supporting local, and being generally good in the world. 

I’ve never been more proud to be a Red Deerian, and I can’t wait for next summer. 

To watch the full Originals Open Mic video click here: https://youtu.be/8fzMIT8pIyE

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Former student lovingly remembered by classmates

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From Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools

A former Father Henri Voisin School student, Julie Burke, was lovingly remembered today through an outdoor blessing and dedication ceremony.

The Julie Burke Memorial Bench was unveiled to the Father Henri Voisin School community and blessed by Father Jan. Julie’s family, division senior administration and Grade 5 student leaders were in attendance in a socially distanced manner.

The memorial bench will be a friendship bench for students.

Julie’s former Grade 4 teacher, Jessica Maloughney, fondly remembers Julie as a girl who was full of kindness and bravery, despite her illness, and says that the bench will, “be a symbol of Julie’s love and bravery. Even though Julianna is no longer here with us, she lives on in all of our hearts. When a student is brave enough to sit on the bench, waiting for a friend – Julie will be there with them. When one of you sees someone sitting on this bench, and invites them to play – Julie will be with you too.”

Father Henri Voisin School Principal, Jeff Tuchscherer, added, “we feel extremely blessed and privileged to have been provided this bench by the Burke family. It will honour Julie’s memory and provide a powerful reminder of the value of friendship, as well as the importance of bravery. Present and future students will vastly benefit from this legacy of a child that lived her life with steadfast love in her heart for all.”

The Julie Burke Memorial Bench faces the school playground and will serve as a reminder to all the students at Father Henri Voisin School that nothing is more important than friendship and kindness, just like Julie believed.

Father Henri Voisin School serves over 385 Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 5 students in Red Deer. As a learning institution, Father Henri Voisin School is committed to serving students with a complete offering of learning opportunities delivered within the context of Catholic teachings.

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october, 2020

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