Walk of Stars handprints on hold as CCMHS shifts focus to hall of fame

By on October 31, 2017
Toby Kieth Walk of Stars handprint can be found outside RBC on Quilchena Avenue. While a new cast of Keith's Walk of Stars handprint didn't work out, the Canadian Country Music Heritage Society is on to new projects aimed at increasing the profile of the local Country Music Hall of Fame. (Michael Potestio/Herald)

Opportunity knocked during this year’s Rockin’ River Music Festival to add Toby Keith and Willie Nelson handprints to Merritt’s Walk of Stars inventory, but fate proved otherwise.

The Canadian Country Music Heritage Society (CCMHS) already has Keith’s handprint on display, but was offered the chance to update the cast while the country music star was in town to headline day two of the festival back in August.

“I went out there and did all that, [but] when they left they backed over it with [Toby Keith’s] bus, so we lost it,” said CCMHS president Ron Sanders.

It was dark out when the handprint met with the unfortunate incident.

Sanders suspects the print was left on the ground while it was drying, leading to its demise at the hands of Keith’s own tour bus.

An unsuccessful attempt was also made to acquire Nelson’s handprint.

“Willie Nelson wouldn’t give us one, and we think it’s because he was tired. He didn’t do any meet and greets or any encores,” said Sanders.

But the days of adding new handprints to the society’s Walk of Stars is essentially on hold as the CCMHS is more focused on increasing the profile of the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame on Quilchena Avenue.

CCMHS member Susan Roline told the Herald the group recently received a $25,000 grant from the BC Museums Association, which will be used to install a digital kiosk at the hall of fame.

This will allow them to showcase inductee plaques they don’t have the space to display.

“It will be like a big iPad, and the user will be able to [select] names [and] we’ll have a stylization of the plaque with that inductee’s information on it,” said Roline. “[Visitors will] be able to listen to that inductee’s bio, some of their music [and] any video clips that we can acquire.”

The society also recently received a matching grant of about $80,000 from Creative BC to produce its Then and Now country music album.

Roline said this compilation album involves hall of fame inductees partnering with up and coming artists to produce modern versions of their hit songs, and will raise the hall’s profile on a national level.

“We will move towards producing a music video out of that too,” said Roline. “We’re going to film all the recording that takes place and different things that tie in with it,” said Roline adding that some filming will be done here in Merritt.

The album will involve 15 artists, including names such as Aaron Pritchett, Gordon Lightfoot and Brett Kissel.

“It’s going to generate a whole bunch of interest in the hall of fame,” said Sanders, adding that the CCMHS still has to raise the other 50 per cent of the funds.

The album is expected to be released next September in conjunction with the Canadian Country Music Association Awards, and is expected to cost about $160,000 to produce.

The CCMHS has about 50 handprints mounted around town as well as many still in storage.

“Those casts are in aluminum frames [and] at some point they’ll be on a wall somewhere,” said Sanders.

Canadian Country Music Heritage Society is a non-profit group that oversees three programs — the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, the Youth Mural Project and the Merritt Walk of Stars.

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