Meeting Anne Murray and making dreams happen
Kellie Maclean wasn’t going to let a heart attack stop her from meeting Anne Murray.
The New Zealand woman survived a brain aneurysm and instead of a potential life-ending experience, Maclean says her health battle was a life-defining moment and she created what’s commonly known as the bucket list: things to do before one dies.
While those of us from Atlantic Canada would probably put visiting New Zealand on our list, Maclean put down on hers to visit Springhill and meet Anne Murray.
And nothing was going to stop her.
“I was all set to go and then it was my birthday in June and I had a heart attack,” Maclean said June 29 in the former mining community where Anne Murray hails from. “’I though I can’t go, but then I thought ‘I’m going. It’s my bucket list.’”
Maclean has listened to Anne’s music since she was 16, and making the pilgrimage to Anne’s hometown is not an uncommon story. An assembly of nations of sorts met in Springhill Saturday to do just that. Australians joined the New Zealanders and an assortment of American visitors, as well as Canadians from across the continent to say they went to the former mining community on the one day of the year they are guaranteed to meet the retired musical artist: Anne Murray Day.
“I adore her as a celebrity, as a person, as a role model for young people growing up,” Tom Turner said.
Turner and his wife, Tami, travelled from British Columbia to share part of the day with Anne. This was Turner’s third visit to Springhill and Anne Murray Centre, but their first meeting Anne.
“Tom has always wanted to meet Anne Murray and he has this bucket list, and this was one of the things on it,” Tami said.
This wasn’t Debra Manseau’s first visit either. She was here when Anne opened the centre in 1989 but never stepped foot into the centre.
“At the time, I was married to a not-so-nice person, and so we had to leave,” the Massachusetts guest said. “I never got a chance to through the centre. I’ve always said I want to do this. Now I’m married to a wonderful nice man and I said let’s do this ... I saw it on Facebook. I didn’t even know it was a possibility.”
Since the Anne Murray Centre opened, Anne has made herself available to the public for a day to support the centres success and stay in touch with fans. There is a VIP luncheon and then autograph signing at the centre where fans share their story. As they do, the centre’s executive director Wanita Shaw smiles as she listens. It’s not her first-time hearing some of these stories, but it is her first time hearing them in person. Her role at the Anne Murray Centre allows her to learn from fans what Anne and her music means to them.
“I was very emotional walking in there,” Shay said following the luncheon. “I remembered each and everyone of their stories. And there is a story to that connection they have with Anne’s music and Anne Murray. It’s helped them through the death of their father, it’s helped them through a hard time in their life. I could feel those stories when I went in.”
Many visitors from afar will tell you Shay was their champion when they thought visiting the small town off Highway 104 was just a pipe dream.
“She’s the one who got me here,” Maclean said. “I told her my bucket list was to go from New Zealand to Nova Scotia and find my roots in Cape Breton and then meet Anne Murray. And I was ‘Ha, ha, ha. Like that could ever happen.’ And she said ‘Oh, no. You can meet her. You can come to the VIP dinner and you can meet her.’”
With Anne Murray now beside her, Maclean lifts both of her arms and finishes her thought.
“Here I am.”
This year, Anne Murray Day saw three nights of the locally produced dinner theatre, Anne of Springhill, lead up to the July 29 extravaganza, including a songwriter’s circle with East Coast musicians Christopher Brown, Christina Martin, Catherine MacLellan and Jessica Rhaye; followed by a closing concert that included Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys, City Natives and The Junior Jills on the bill.
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