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Love letter to the Townships: Q&A with new Breakaway host Alison Brunette

Alison Brunette originally moved to Sherbrooke for what she thought was a four-month contract. Now she's the new host of Breakaway. Find out what made her stay.

How a four-month contract blossomed into something so much more

You've been listening to her for months, but today CBC made it official: Alison Brunette has been confirmed as the host of Breakaway, the drive-home radio show serving Quebec, outside of Montreal.

Originally from Huntsville, Ont., Alison left CBC Montreal's newsroom in 2008 for what she thought would be a four-month contract in Sherbrooke. Ten years later, she's put down some serious roots.

We chatted with her about what made her stay, what she hopes to bring to show and, in the spirit of the season, what her favourite holiday traditions are.

Q: Congrats on the new gig! What do you look forward to bringing to the role as host of Breakaway?

A: I hope I can spread the love and enthusiasm I've developed for the region to our listeners. Though I'm in the Townships now, I've also spent a lot of time in Quebec City and have travelled across the province covering the fascinating stories of the people who live here. My goal is to reflect back to them how awesome they are and how they are shaping the English-speaking community outside of Montreal.

Q: What's so special about the region? 

A: You can visit an organic farm in the morning, have a dip in the lake at noon and see a world-class show in the evening, all within a 30-kilometre radius. Or alternatively, go downhill skiing at any number of local ski hills, depending on the season.

New Breakaway host Alison Brunette hopes to spread the love and enthusiasm she's developed for the region to listeners. ( Kate Morrison)

Q: You originally moved to Sherbrooke for what you thought was a four-month contract. What made you stay?

A: A young physics graduate from l'Université de Sherbrooke and jam nights at a cozy little pub called Les Beaux Dimanches.  The graduate — while not so young anymore — is now my husband.

Q: What are your fave areas of the Townships to explore? Where would you still like to go? 

A: I love the trip from Sherbrooke to Compton in the early summer. We stop for fresh strawberries and cheese from Fromagerie de la Station before heading on to spend a beach day at Lac Lyster in Baldwin Mills and hiking up Mont Pinacle. I still want to reach more summits, namely Mount Gosford. As for the rest of the province, my bucket list  also includes Gaspé, Magdalen Islands and Lower North Shore.

Q: What's one of your fave stories from the region you've covered so far?

A: Giant pumpkin contests, and the intricacies of growing gargantuan gourds. Also, anything and everything about Clark's and Sons store in Lennoxville.

Q: What's your fave holiday tradition? 

A: Strolling through the German Christmas market in Quebec City with a cup of mulled wine before making the long journey west to my childhood home in Ontario.

Q: Bonus question: What's your favourite Christmas movie?

Santa Clause: The Movie. starring Dudley Moore and John Lithgow. Circa 1985.


Alison's last day on air before the holidays is Wednesday, Dec. 19. She is back Jan. 7. 

From the Gaspé to the Abitibi, the Eastern Townships to the Lower North Shore, Breakaway connects with communities all over the province. Hosted by Alison Brunette and produced Cassandra Leader, Breakaway airs live from Sherbrooke, 4-6 p.m. weekdays on CBC Radio One across Quebec. Technician-researcher is Julia Caron. Connect with Breakaway on Twitter (@CBCbreakaway) and Facebook (CBC Quebec). Connect with Alison on Twitter (@AliBrunet).