It was a kitchen party downtown last weekend, as Canadian country star George Canyon opened the city's new legion branch.
“I've got to play the (Grand Ole) Opry a few times, but this sure beats that,” said Canyon before he opened his Friday night set with a cover of Johnny Cash's "I walk the line."
Canyon said playing the new legion building underneath Coyote's Bistro on Franklin Avenue was a change of pace that brought him back to his early days as a musician, when he played in branches across the east coast before touring internationally.
“They've already been met,” said Canyon, when he was asked about his expectations of being the first act to play at the new location. “It's such a huge honor especially the military aspect of it.”
Canyon, originally from Halifax, served four years as an honorary colonel with the military branch in his hometown, a fact that legion representatives said was a big factor in deciding to bring Canyon north for the grand opening.
Before performing to two sold out crowds, Canyon was in a ribbon cutting ceremony carried out by Dusty Miller, 99, a retired Second World War veteran, on the dance floor of the new building.
One of the most prominent features of the club's new space is a display on the back wall that features military dress from past wars, including parts of Miller's air force uniform that was worn in combat.
“I want to pass this on for the next 10 generations because we're here to support the military,” said local legion president Don Asher, about the new display.
“I didn't care how much it would cost, I wanted it done and it's been done, and it looks fantastic.”
The military display is not the only new feature. The legion is now sporting five dart boards, a shuffle board area and two new pool tables as well as space for 100 patrons, over twice as much as the club's old location.
“We weren’t doing enough, there wasn’t enough people to do what we needed to get done, now with the population that we have now, I think we can do a lot more for the community,” said Asher.
The Legion is officially a not-for-profit organization meaning that all money raised from sales at the new club, including ticket sales from the weekend opening, will be donated to different causes throughout the city.
Last year, the Legion donated $160,000 to organizations ranging from breakfast programs at schools to the salvation army to different scholarships in the city. Asher hopes that with twice as much space and membership, the club will be able to donate twice the amount of money this year.
“Now that we have double the people, we should be able to double (the money), and we hope to do that, that’s the whole purpose,” said Asher.
The Legion is hoping to hold different musical events in every few months over the next year to welcome as many people as they can into the new space.
As for Canyon, he will next travel south to Vancouver to continue promoting his new CD before heading back out east.