SPRINGHILL - It was 20 years ago when Anne Murray cut the ribbon to the centre that bears her name, and over the weekend fans from across North America packed the entrance of the Anne Murray Centre to surprise her.
With open arms and tears in her eyes, Sarah Poitrus greeted Murray as she arrived.
"Why are you crying, honey," Murray asked.
"I'm just so glad to see you," Poitrus replied.
"Then this is a good day," Murray said, to the applause and laughter of her adoring fans.
Murray's meet-and-greet with fans at the Anne Murray Centre has become an annual tradition in Springhill, with the exception of last year when she met with the public at Springhill's community centre, which bears the names of her mother and father, Marion and Dr. Carson Murray. Every hand is shook and no fan walks away without an autograph.
It takes an amazing amount of resilience and stamina, but Murray smiles through it all, greeting everyone eagerly and taking time to listen to the stories each have longed to tell her since becoming touched by her music.
Murray might not have known it 20 years ago, but many around her knew it was the redeeming qualities that would make an Anne Murray Centre a hit.
"I thought, 'Don't be silly. Do you really think?'" Murray said.
"It was Leonard Rambeau's doing. He was thinking about it for a long time. I was so busy at the time touring that I finally said, 'Oh, yeah? Maybe it will work.'"
Lucky for Murray, her manager and mother were two of her biggest fans, tucking away keepsakes and memorabilia from her career, almost instinctively knowing that the day would come when it could go on display. That foresight made for the lasting impression the Anne Murray Centre continues to offer.
"The first time I walked through, it was awe-inspiring," Murray said.
"There were things I hadn't seen in years. Mom had an attic full of stuff and Leonard, he wasn't as organized, but he kept all sorts of boxes."
Looking back at those early days leading to the opening of the Anne Murray Centre, it was clear the community was excited to become home to the not-for-profit centre, Murray says, and for her it was an opportunity to make Springhill a destination and not just a community off the beaten path of Highway 104.
"It's such a hard-luck town and this gave it a little boost," Murray said.
"I have a lot of fond memories living here and after 20 years it's very gratifying."