Manitoba

Tom Jackson sings for snow-stuck travellers in Virden, Man.

It may have been cold and snowy outside, but inside a recreation centre in Virden, Man., it was warm with new friendships and the entertainment of Tom Jackson and his band.

Jackson cancels show in Brandon, decides to perform for trapped travellers instead

The town of Virden, Man., prepared to house dozens of people stranded due to a winter storm that is bearing down on the southern Prairies. 1:04

It may have been cold and snowy outside, but inside a recreation centre in Virden, Man., there was the warmth of new friendships and the entertainment of Tom Jackson and his band.

The well-known actor and singer was one of the people stranded in the southwestern Manitoba community after a wicked, winter storm rolled through on Tuesday impacting highway driving, even closing some.

Jackson was on his way from a show in Regina, Sask., to his next gig in Brandon when his tour bus had to pull over.

"Bad news, we didn't get to do that show. But the good news is we got to come here and help some folks get a spirit uplift," Jackson said on Tuesday evening, adding the Brandon show has been rescheduled.

The Tundra Oil and Gas Place was opened to accommodate the stranded travellers, and organizers were expecting 60 people and there were also two dogs and one cat. Hotels in the town of about 3,000 people were booked solid.

Jackson and his band had stopped in the centre and started talking with some of the people when he decided the show must go on.

"We decided well if we were here and we were going to play anyway and we love to play," he said.

"We thought maybe we would share some good cheer if we set up at the evacuation centre."

The room quickly filled up with the stranded travellers who heard about the special performance, and a lot of members of the community showed up as well.

"I felt very much a part of a community," he said. "Then the community kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger and by the end of the night you could see the hall was almost full."

Harry Bullart and his young son, Myles, were forced to stop by the snow. (Heather Reimer/Submitted to CBC)

Harry Bullart and his young son made sure to watch the show when they were forced to take a pause in a very long journey. They had been driving from Fort St. John, B.C., across the country for a funeral.

"Everything was good until we actually came here," he said. "[I] had just pulled over to get gas … that's when they closed the road."

Luckily, Bullart said they were given a special room and some privacy at the centre. But they made sure to come out and take in the music.

Tracy Howard, director of parks and recreation with the Town of Virden, said Jackson's scaled-down show brought calm to an unfortunate situation.

"Everyone was just sitting and enjoying the music and entertainment. It was just fantastic. It was very friendly, very open," Howard said.

"We were all singing Christmas carols. It was just really, really a silver lining on a very, very snowy cloud."

Jackson said he hadn't stopped in Virden for much more than gas, but that will change after his snowed-in performance.

"I [didn't] have friends and family here; I do now," he said.

The group of stranded strangers woke up to a free breakfast donated by the local Co-op Wednesday while waiting for the highway to reopen.

With files from Heather Reimer