Shania Twain’s hometown welcomes star with snow, signs, parking lot party
TIMMINS, Ont. (CP) – Country superstar Shania Twain sent hundreds of bone-chilled fans into a frenzy Tuesday as she finally returned home to cut the ribbon at a museum dedicated to her phenomenally successful singing career.
At a ceremony in the parking lot outside the Shania Twain Centre, she gushed about the “gorgeous” building and displays, and said she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I think it’s first class, and not because I happen to be the subject in there,” said a beaming Twain, who was wearing giant hoop earrings, a ponytail and a pink turtleneck covered in a warm black vest.
“I think when fans come here from all over the world, they’re going to get a really honest representation of who I am and where I’m from.”
Twain, who had a private tour of the three-year-old facility, repeatedly complimented town officials, noting how clean the city looked, and she said she hoped the centre would continue to attract tourists to the region to learn “about us northern Ontario people.”
After the official ceremony she answered questions from the audience and signed autographs for 150 devotees. Twain showed off her French, saying she’s been taking lessons because it’s her son Eja’s first language. When asked if she’ll soon be giving her son a sibling, she laughed and replied “No, I don’t think so.”
Despite flurries and sub-zero temperatures, spectators from near and far gathered for the shindig at the sprawling facility that houses Twain’s many trophies, her wedding dress and a variety of flamboyant stage outfits.
The crowd was much smaller than anticipated but cold weather didn’t dampen spirits as Shania-mania took over the city. Many businesses put up signs welcoming Twain. Local car dealerships had Shania Twain Day sales.
“You’ve got to support her,” said Cindy Boucher, manager of East Side Mario’s restaurant on Riverside Drive, where a billboard proclaimed Welcome Back Shania. “If I was in her shoes, I would like people to receive me as a hometown girl.”
Officials had expected about 5,000 people at the ribbon-cutting event, but closer to 500 were on hand.
“She’s an inspiration to us all,” said Richard Sessions, 47, dancing on the spot to keep warm and hoisting a giant sign with phrases borrowed from Twain’s songs: “Looks like you’ve made it. Look how far you’ve come Eilleen.”
Sessions took a week’s vacation, voted early in the American election and travelled from Goshen, Ind., to see the superstar.
“Everybody is initially attracted to her because of her music, and she’s obviously eye candy,” he said. “Beyond that, once you become familiar with her life, she instils the values that people should have in their life. She doesn’t bend to peer pressure. She puts family first.”
By early afternoon, hundreds of people were on hand, bundled up in parkas, with some arriving on a special transit service set up for the occasion. Some fans brought folding chairs and tried to play cards while they waited, but the snow quickly covered everything – tuques, chairs and cards.
Merchandise was being sold from a tent. Vendors said the most popular item was a coin to commemorate the date, bearing a headshot of Twain and selling for about $10. Shania Twain lip balm for $4.55 was also a hot item.
The day began with a surprise visit to Timmins High and Vocational School, which Twain attended as a teenager.
“This is awesome,” said principal Wendy Adams. “I’m sure our kids are never going to forget this.”
Twain’s former math teacher, Gord Spylo, came to the school and “he actually gave her a little five-question quiz about some math things related to her,” said Adams.
“And then they walked down to a music room … and they went to see some of the practice rooms. When she was a student here she would go in there and write music, so she had some pretty fond memories of the music room and just wanted to see what that looked like.”
As well, Twain presented a $10,000 Band Aid grant from the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for the purchase of musical instruments at an assembly of about 500 students.
The principal gave Twain hockey jerseys from the school – one for her and a “pint-sized version” for her three-year-old son.
Born Eilleen Edwards, the 39-year-old singer is a hero for many Timmins residents. She started singing around town at age eight. And almost everyone you ask is familiar with her rags-to-riches tale which saw her, at age 21, raise her younger siblings after her mother and father were killed in a car accident.
The centre first opened June 30, 2001. Twain sent her regrets at the time, blaming her pregnancy for her absence.
Sabrina Benoit, 20, a secretary at an accounting firm, took the day off work to be at the centre Tuesday, and said nobody blames Twain for the delay in visiting Timmins.
“No, not at all, she has a life too,” said Benoit, who was wrapped in a big pink scarf to stay warm. “She can come open it whenever she pleases. She has a kid and a life. It’s nice that she’s finally able to see it. We definitely appreciate it.”
The country star supports the centre, having contributed over $1 million worth of memorabilia.
The museum, which acts as a home base for an annual Shania Twain Fan Convention every August, has become the focal point of the remote northern Ontario city. All tourism brochures feature Twain’s almond eyes and big smile. Even the centre’s blue and gold colour scheme was designed to mesh with the city’s blue and gold logo.
FYI Quick Facts:
Switzerland-based Shania Twain’s stop at her hometown of Timmins, Ont., is part of a one-week blitz promoting her Greatest Hits CD, to be released next Tuesday. That same day she performs at the Country Music Awards in Nashville.
A quick look at Twain:
Born: Eilleen Regina Edwards, Aug. 28, 1965, Windsor, Ont. (Changed name to Twain when mother remarried).
Raised: Timmins, Ont.
Family: Married to British producer Mutt Lange (Def Leppard), has three-year-old son, Eja.
The Name: Shania is Ojibwa for “I’m on my way.”
Current home: Lives in 18th-century home on shore of Lake Geneva in Switzerland; neighbours include Phil Collins. Recently purchased 24,700 hectares of farmland in New Zealand’s South Island.
Career turning point: Video for Any Man of Mine, 1995, written with Lange. Introduced the staid country community to Twain’s sex appeal.
Albums: Up!, 2002; Come On Over, 1997; The Woman In Me, 1995; and Shania Twain, 1993. Greatest Hits CD to be released next Tuesday. It contains 21 songs including three new ones, Party for Two, Don’t! and I Ain’t No Quitter. Twain recorded two versions of Party for Two, a pop version with Sugar Ray vocalist Mark McGrath and a twangier – better – one with country newbie Billy Currington.
Achievements: 1997’s Come On Over is considered the best-selling ever by a female artist and the sixth biggest of all time, equalling AC/DC’s Back in Black and The Beatles’ With the Beatles.
More Shania: She co-hosts CTV’s Canada AM on Wednesday from Toronto, on Friday she’ll perform a four-song street gig in Nashville for Good Morning America, on Monday she’ll make a stop to the U.S.’s QVC shopping channel to hawk her CD and a new DVD, and finally, next Tuesday the singer performs Party for Two at the Country Music Association Awards in Nashville. She’s also in theatres with a cameo in I (Heart) Huckabees.
Charity: She recently partnered with BeneFit Cosmetics to create a lipstick, Shania Red, with proceeds going to the American Heart Association. It’s been the cosmetic company’s best selling shade since its launch in September.
Shania Twain’s hometown welcomes star with snow, signs, parking lot party