Ross Street Stage – Saving Grace

Photo Credit: Robin Byrnes Photography

Have you made your way downtown lately? You may have noticed that Ross Street is a little narrower this time of year but no, it’s not road construction! It’s the Ross Street Patio! Erected in the Spring, it gives the pubs and restaurants downtown some much needed additional spacing. While trying to maintain social distancing to keep their staff and patrons safe, the patio has been a Godsend, but extra space doesn’t automatically mean extra visitors. Enter the Ross Street Stage – an outdoor venue that provides something that has been sorely missed in these current circumstances. Yes, live music downtown has been an absolute boon to four establishments on the Ross Street city block.

The Velvet Olive, Taco Loft, Tribe, and Occam’s Razor were all able to add supplemental seating to their venues and the allure of live music has been tremendously fruitful for their cause. Kyle Key, owner of both the Velvet Olive and the newly opened Capitol Package Store, takes great pride in his weekly Open Mic nights at the Olive but due to the coziness of the venue, combined with the current indoor music protocols in place, he was greatly hindered in his ability to host it properly. With the help of Paeton Cameron, a local musician/promoter, he made the decision to move the event outside. “Live music is the single most common thing that brings a community of great people together.” Key states, “The ability to do musical programming outside has enabled us to reestablish our identity as a venue and individually as like-minded human beings.”

While the Thursday Open Mic Nights are a Velvet Olive production, it didn’t take their neighbours long to see the benefits of utilizing the Ross Street Stage. Brandon Bouchard, a tireless Downtown supporter and managing partner of Tribe, was quick to notice the positive impact the stage was having on his venue. “Programming downtown, specifically on the Ross St. Patio, equates to approximately double the amount of revenue compared to times without programming. Music brings the people and keeps them seated.” Mike Ubbing, who can be found slinging margaritas and delicious Mexican food at Taco Loft, echoes the sentiment and is proud to be a part of the Downtown culture. “[Downtown] is a great community of business owners and entrepreneurs. Everyone has their own unique, cool thing going on.” For those familiar with the atmosphere downtown, it should come as no surprise that these locations were happy to join forces for a special event occurring later this month.

On September 18, the four venues are thrilled to present an evening of local artists performing original songs right here on the Ross Street Stage. While each venue has its own charm to attract patrons inside, there is no question that the stage downtown would not bring much value without talent to grace it. With Paeton Cameron at the helm, he has been able to highlight all the amazing local acts making music in our own backyards. “Red Deer is lucky to have a world-class pedigree of musicians,” comments Cameron. “And the atmosphere it’s created over this summer has been unparalleled in this community.” Matt Buck and Eric Crosswell, owners of Occam’s Razor – the last piece of the Ross Street puzzle, could not agree more. “This community is incredible, and it shows up to support its local businesses. Running a business here means being a part of something bigger than your bricks and mortar.”

There is no question that the Ross Street Stage has been a game changer for all the businesses downtown; not to mention the musical acts, comedians, and other artists desperate for a platform who have been able to find an audience there in a safe and supportive manner. Without a stage like this, we all lose out. No performers means no audience and no audience means less people downtown. Thankfully, the community has embraced the stage and in ways that stretch far beyond the downtown core. In addition to the aforementioned venues, four local breweries were eager to get it on the action. Sawback, Blindman, Red Hart, and Field & Forge Brewing were all more than happy to contribute to such a great cause because with so much uncertainty in the world, it’s clear that community support is the only way to keep rolling.

We hope to see you at 7 o’clock on September 18 at the Ross Street Stage to celebrate Red Deer and all it has to offer. If the weather does not cooperate, the event will be moved to September 25.

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