Manitoba

Local artist pledges to raise $1M for Manitoba communities through concerts

A country musician from Manitoba says touring through the province’s small towns and cities has shown him their beauty — and just how deep their needs can be.

‘There’s always somebody that needs help,' says Manitoba country musician Quinton Blair

Local musician Quinton Blair said he set a deadline of seven years for himself to help rural Manitoba communities raise $1 million — although that will come long before his planned retirement from music at around age 80. (Quinton Blair/Supplied)

A country musician from Manitoba says touring through the province's small towns and municipalities has shown him their beauty — and just how deep their needs can be.

Before he retires, Quinton Blair said he hopes to raise $1 million that will go toward helping rural communities across the province find the money to fix swimming pools, build trails and plan for emergencies.

"I spend so much time in rural Manitoba. I play in a band and we play rodeo dances and country fairs, and so we get to see all these kinds of corners of the province," Blair told CBC Radio Noon host Marjorie Dowhos on Thursday. 

"You're in these kind of beautiful parts of this province and it makes you really fall in love with it. And as you get to be involved in different communities, you start to see like, 'Wow, there's a need right there. There's a need right there.'"

Wheels started turning

Blair said the idea started out as a passing comment he made to a friend about wanting to help communities most affected by the unseasonable fall snowstorm that hit southern Manitoba in October.

"And then, before you know it, you're playing a shop party out in Treherne, and then it comes up in conversation and [someone] says, 'You know, our swimming pool, they're always fundraising [to fix it and] we just can never make it.' And I said, 'Well, let's try to build a plan that can facilitate that,'" he said.

Since then, Blair said the idea has snowballed into something much bigger.

"I said it in the moment, and now all of a sudden it's like, I actually think that I can do this," he said. 

"And as I'm kind of turning my wheels on my brain — which never really stops, I'm always just kind of planning and planning and planning — and I start to go, I think I can maybe get this thing to the point where we can make $10,000 a night. That's a stretch, right? 

"[But] if we can find sponsorships and get other people involved, $10,000 a night on 20 nights a year in five years — that's $1 million. And that's where this whole thing started to come from."

'Always a need'

Blair said by spending time in rural Manitoba, he realized how many of their projects and services — like repairs to a swimming pool in Treherne, or a new roof on the community centre in Marchand — rely on provincial funding or grants.

"It seems like there's just cuts, cuts and cuts or whatever for different services," he said. "I get that, but it's also meaning that it's sometimes harder for smaller organizations to get that funding put in place. So we're really just targeting rural Manitoba, trying to find ways that we can get money circulating within all those communities."

He said that's why he's hoping to lend his musical abilities and event planning expertise to help the communities raise the money on their own.

"We're not a charity, we're not a non-profit, we're not anything like that," he said. "What we're kind of coming into this as is a facilitator and as a guiding tool."

Blair said there are a few events that have already been announced — like one to support a new green corridor in MacGregor, and another to support a local arts council in Neepawa — and a few more still in the planning stages.

Blair said he set a deadline of seven years for himself to help rural Manitoba communities raise $1 million — although that will come long before his planned retirement from music at around age 80.

And if he hits the target, Blair said he has no plans of slowing down.

"There's always a need. There's always somebody that needs help," he said. "I love this province and you'll never you'll never move me from it."

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