Meet­ing Anne Mur­ray and mak­ing dreams hap­pen

The Citizen-Record (Cumberland) - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHRISTOPHER GOODING CIT­I­ZEN-RECORD SPRINGHILL

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.

CHRISTOPHER GOODING/CIT­I­ZEN-RECORD

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CHRISTOPHER GOODING/CIT­I­ZEN-RECORD

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