Manitoulin Country Fest showcases top country music talent

Aundeck Omni Kaning resident Sue Ramsdin creates amazing beaded guitar straps such as this one that she gets signed by country music stars. Ms. Ramsdin’s beadwork so captivated country music legend Tanya Tucker that she not only bought one and ordered five more for her band, she also invited Ms. Ramsdin back to her bus for a few shots of her newly launched tequila Cosa Salvaje. photos by Michael Erskine

LITTLE CURRENT – Country musicians are noted for engaging with their audience members, but for a couple of attendees at this year’s Manitoulin Country Fest the weekend really held some memories that will be cherished for a lifetime. 

Sue Ramsdin of Aundeck Omni Kaning is well known for her outstanding and intricate beadwork creations and she has one beaded guitar strap that bears a host of signatures from some of the most iconic names in the industry on the back, but only two artists have been allowed to sign the front—last year’s legendary Carol Baker and this year’s Tanya Tucker.

Ms. Tucker, a consummate entertainer, held her audience deftly in the palm of her hand with more than a half century of experience, but was intrigued when she saw Ms. Ramsdin holding up the guitar strap. She signed the piece onstage, then said she wanted to purchase one, in fact five more for the band. She told Ms. Ramsdin to meet her at the side of the venue following the show.

Ms. Ramsdin dutifully waited for the artist, but after a while decided perhaps it was just stage show banter and went back to her seat. That is where Manitoulin Country Fest organizer Kelly Timbermans found her a few minutes later to escort her to the country music legend’s bus.

Not only was Ms. Tucker good as her word in buying the one strap, she ordered the five more for her band—and then proceeded to pour shots of her new tequila brand for her starstruck guest.

“I can’t believe it,” exclaimed Ms. Ramsdin when The Expositor caught up with her the next day. The tequila must have been pretty smooth too, as Ms. Ramsdin declared herself no worse for wear following her encounter with the author of ‘Delta Dawn.’ As for the bespoke beaded guitar straps, Ms. Ramsdin is one of the only people out there creating them with deer hide.

The massive Saturday night crowd was warming up for Saturday night headliner Paul Brandt. The Canadian country music star topped an evening of showcased Canadian talent.

Through her performance Ms. Tucker brought a young girl named Grace to sing a rendition of ‘The Sound of Music.’ The entertainer continued to bond with her audience by introducing them to her well-shaved pet golden retriever, itself a cancer survivor. Ms. Tucker was sporting a pink hairstyle in honour of all those battling cancer, especially one of her oldest and dearest friends.

The weather cooperated once again at Manitoulin Country Fest, mostly, with high winds curtailing the bouncy castle fun and playing some havoc with a couple of cabanas on Thursday afternoon, but the winds did not interfere with what was happening onstage and had largely abated by the time the evening rolled around. From then on it was smooth sailing and blue skies.

Manitoulin Country Fest prides itself on its partnership with local community groups and this year was no exception. Manitoulin Streams was the beneficiary of the Thursday night cruise on North Channel Cruise Lines’ Grand Heron and Manitoulin Minor Hockey made out large with sold out 50/50 ticket sales and a draw for an ATV. Dr. Ben Quackenbush won the quad.

This year’s fan experience, with a flight to Calgary for the Country Music Awards, three nights’ accommodation and $600 spending money, as well as tickets to all of the events including the awards night, was won by Emily Duhamel of Lively.

“It means a lot to us that you put your hard earned-dollars into our event,” said Ms. Timmermans to the audience prior to the Paul Brandt headline show. “You have all become family to us.”

Entertainer Beverly Mahood once again reprised her outstanding performance as a master of ceremonies throughout the event.

The event was certainly family friendly, with young children obviously enjoying the show, many of them borne on the shoulders of their parents near the stage.

As always, the night closed out with a tremendous fireworks display as literally thousands of people made their way back to their campsites or the shuttle to the parking lots.