By CHARLES TWEED
The best things around that I have ever seen; came from small towns and big dreams. — Paul Brandt
That was a fitting lyric for the occasion as Brandt made residents’ dreams come true when he stopped at the Ponoka UFA Jan. 22 for a meet and greet.
Brandt played shows in Milk River and Beaverlodge as part of the Small Town Heroes promotion. The contest asked Albertans to nominate a small town hero in their community, then, two winning towns were selected for a free concert and a donation of $2,500 to community efforts.
Ashley Lamey was nominated from Ponoka, and although she didn’t win the free concert, a chance to meet Brandt in person was just as good.
Lamey was all smiles as Brandt wrapped both arms around her in a warm embrace. When asked how Mrs. Brandt might feel about the hug, Lamey said, with a big grin “who cares.”
“She’s a sweetie, and it was really an honor and inspiration to meet her,” said Brandt.
Brandt wasn’t the only famous person on hand however; he was looking forward to getting a chance to meet a couple of local celebrities.
“To get to meet some of these people was exciting. To be able to put a face to names, it’s pretty neat. It was a real highlight to get to meet the twins. And that’s what it’s all about, helping and promoting the people that take the time to do things in the community, because it translates right across the province and it’s what makes Albertans’ Albertan,” said Brandt.
The meet and greet — if you can call it that, since Brandt took the time to speak to everyone who showed up individually and stuck around until every autograph and picture was taken — brought different people from all walks of life, a testament to how Brandt’s music resonates with everyone. Students were skipping school, children were pulled out of daycare — in part, so mothers and fathers had an excuse to miss work — and musicians of all different walks showed up, guitar in hand.
Alan Swain, who played in the local band RPM’s, was excited to meet Brandt — again.
Swain played in a contest against Brandt in Calgary in the early 1990s where the winner received recording time in Nashville.
“He was so impressive that night. Very clear and strong vocals, we knew he had it, even before they announced the winner,” said Swain.
Those big dreams sure have paid off for Brandt. The winner of numerous awards, including the Country Music Association’s global artist of the year, and now president of his own label, Brand-T Records, he was quick to point out the next Paul Brandt very well could have been in the crowd that showed up to meet him.
“You never know, you might find someone with a great voice that needs a little extra help to get started. I’m always looking for that and there seems like there are a lot musicians in this area.”
The Small Town Heroes campaign was a huge success for fans, Brandt and UFA alike and another contest is in the works. For more information visit smalltownheroes.ca