The temperature was rising to well above 30 on Saturday, but the show did go on for the performers of the Grande Prairie International Street Performers Festival.
Marcia Tofer is a seasoned pro and was up to the challenge; after all, she has been a consistent performer since 2015.
“I'm pretty excited for today; I think every day is a great day when you're street performing.”
“I decided to go as (alien) Etta Carina, because it's supposed to be super hot today,” she told Town & Country News earlier in the day.
It was a small change in plans; she originally had planned to be Sunny, the Goat Lady.
Tofer is always ready for whatever may come her way; it's part of her job at the festival as a rover.
“Roving is basically when you are just interacting with the crowd,” she explains.
Rovers also help slow crowds down and guide them from show to show, explains Tofer.
She enjoys her role as it allows her time to work on her characters, who all have backstories.
“(Etta Carina is a) super luminous being from the Carina Nebula, and every 4.54 years, she can return to her home planet where she lives in the Misty Mountains,” explains Tofer.
On Saturday, Etta Carina walked the streets with her “mega dome” of a head, shiny gem-embedded rainbow skin, silver space boots and a wizard-like staff.
The alien visitor wandered the festival, learning how to interact with humans. The ones who spent time with the alien would provide insights on the human race and learn what she was trying to do.
Etta Carina wants to go home.
“She travels by secret power, so she's trying to get people to tell her their secrets,” explained Tofer.
Tofer's alien character would stop and listen to the whispered secrets of those who shared them, so she could make her way home. One Grande Prairie girl said her father would help Etta Carina build a spaceship to return home if enough secrets were not discerned.
“As far as social experience experiment, I think being able to lighten your load is really useful.
“People can carry a lot, and it's in the form of a secret; being able to tell someone they don't know or that isn't going to judge them can hope to a person if they wanted to take that advantage.”
Tofer roamed for an hour on Saturday at 1 p.m. It was her first shift of the day; she would have at least two more.
Though the street performers festival may feel like pure entertainment, it can mean much more to the performers.
“There's just something creative within myself that I need, I feel like I want to express, and it's just a great space to do it in,” explains Tofer. She adds her characters allow her to share special moments.
“I held a little girl's hand for about three minutes while she thought about a secret to tell me, and it was just really wonderful to spend that much time with her super quietly.”
“It's really heartwarming,” said Tofer, “when you can spend time with someone when it's a completely unexpected thing.”
When Tofer is not performing, she is training and making space for more people and hopes to inspire them to be creative. She has gone on to create a circus summer camp for children and hopes to continue to expand teaching circus to people in the Grande Prairie region.
“Why do I do it?
“I don't feel like I can do anything else, in all honesty.
“I feel like it is definitely a life's purpose to be a visual creator and to be a creator in this way.”
The Grande Prairie International Street Performers Festival celebrated its 22nd year this past weekend as performers from as far as Australia performed.
The City of Grande Prairie funded $14,000 to the Grande Prairie International Street Performers Festival Association from the Arts Development Festival Fund.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News