SOURIS — The music was pumping, the beer was flowing and the dance floor was packed as Doc Walker rocked a sold-out crowd in Souris on Friday night.
The Manitoba country rock band blasted hits that reverberated through the Murray Arena at the Souris Glenwood Memorial Complex and had party goers two-stepping.
Tickets to the show quickly became the hottest commodity in town after selling out one week in advance.
Souris and Glenwood economic development officer Vern May organized the concert and instantly became the most popular man in Westman when the final ticket was sold.
May said he was fielding phone calls until midnight this week from people hoping he could somehow find a way to print a few more tickets. Just hours before the show, they were still coming up trying to find a way to get through the door.
"This is the first large-scale concert we’ve put on and everyone was really enthusiastic," May said.
When the final chord was strummed, the last whiskey poured, more than 1,000 people took in the show.
May said 900 tickets were sold with the remaining 100 people made up of volunteers, staff and the band.
"For a town of 1,800 people I’m really happy with those numbers," May said.
Down the street at the Uptown Lounge and Restaurant, patrons packed the bar for pre and post-concert drinks.
Owner Darcia Wright took more than 50 reservations for dinner.
At 4 p.m., her staff were working furiously to ensure the lounge was prepared for the rush.
By 7 p.m., everything had settled down again.
Wright and her servers listened to the concert through the back door, aware that the smooth vocals from frontman Chris Thorsteinson was the calm before the storm.
"It’s been a great day but by two o’clock I think they’ll have had enough," Wright said with a smile, "and I know I have."
The concert will generate more than $9,000 for the community, with revenue from alcohol sales yet to be tabulated.
But it’s about so much more than just the dollar figure, according to May.
The concert put Souris in the spotlight.
At the front door of the arena, May greeted concert-goers as they entered. Front and centre, a display and tourism booklet highlighting the many attractions the community and RM have to offer.
A former wrestler and promoter, May was in his element ensuring the concert went off without a hitch.
"This is stuff I know the best and it’s a day I’m not in a meeting," he said.
He admitted the concert took a certain amount of luck and timing.
While negotiating a deal with country star Aaron Pritchett, who will play the arena June 27 as part of what’s being dubbed Swinging Bridge Weekend in Souris, the promoter asked about potentially hosting Doc Walker.
A few phone calls later and Souris took the plunge.
May said it was an easy decision knowing the band’s pedigree.
"Doc Walker has such a wide appeal and it lets us attract all ages of people," May said. "Part of our strategy is engaging people at all levels because we want people to recognize this is a great community for young families."
Online ticket sales came in from more than 25 communities in Westman.
The night prior to the concert, each ticket-holder received an email telling them where they could get a good meal, a place to stay, or fill up their gas tank.
It’s all part of a strategy to draw more people to the area.
"A lot of communities really sell how quiet it is and that it would be a nice place to retire ... but you need to have the kids, the families in order to have the full scope of services in the community in order to keep it alive."
If there was one complaint, it was the lack of parking close to the arena, but it’s something May can live with knowing he can’t do anything to change it.
Looking forward, the Pritchett concert has already surpassed the 600-ticket mark and May is comfortable saying the show will also sell out.
"People have already booked campsites and we have a whole bunch of events including music throughout the weekend," he said.
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed