Word in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories (pop. 2500) was that Anne Lepine had something big planned for her 50th birthday, but only a handful of people knew exactly what that was until late on Saturday night.
That’s when country superstar Dwight Yoakam took the stage of the Roaring Rapids community hall for a two-hour private concert.
“Actually, the band couldn’t fit on the stage in the hall so they had to take part of the floor,” Lepine says, “so I had a really small dance floor. People were still dancing in that little area.”
Lepine won $7.6 million in the lottery in 2011. Against all odds, it was her second lottery win in four years. In 2007, her then husband, Barkley Heron, won $11 million in the 6/49. The pair owned the Rapid Corner Store where the winning ticket was purchased. They were investigated but cleared of any wrongdoing.
Lepine knew she wanted to do something big for her 50th birthday, and Dwight Yoakam had long been one of her favourite musicians.
“It was far fetched,” she admits. “I didn’t even know if he would come.”
But in March of this year, after working with a talent agency in Nashville, Lepine got word that he would do it.
Lepine says she managed to keep a lid on the big-name star's appearance by starting a few rumours of her own.
“I told them Garth Brooks was coming, Alan Jackson, George Canyon, George Straight, Terri Clark,” she says.
After that, the most difficult task was whittling down the guest list. The Roaring Rapids community hall only holds 195 people.
“I’ve lived in Fort Smith since I was seven, so it was very hard for me to choose how many people to invite,” Lepine says. “I could only get 40 people to the meet-and-greet from the 180 that were supposed to be there.”
Norbert Poitras’s band, North Country Rock, opened for Dwight Yoakam.
“It was awesome just to be a part of it,” Poitras says. “It was an honour to be there.”
All in all, Lepine says she got to spend about five minutes with the superstar, but she has no regrets.
“I wanted something big for my 50th. I pulled it off. I did it.”
Lepine says she might have invited Yoakam to stay longer, but it was -38 in Fort Smith the night he played, and it didn't seem likely.