Country North Show ‘a stepping stone’ for Prince Albert youth

Jaelyn Furber, 13, performs at the Prince Albert Winter Festival's Country North Show at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on Feb. 19, 2020. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

“I’d like nothing more than to see one of these kids wind up with a career, and I think there’s talent there.” – Barry Mihilewicz

Jaelyn Furber made her Country North Show debut on Wednesday night in front of a nearly packed E.A. Rawlinson Centre crowd. With strength in her voice and a natural stage presence, you wouldn’t be able to tell Furber’s only 13 years old.

The Country North Show has been a part of the Prince Albert Winter Festival since nearly the beginning. The Reunion Show on Saturday is a glimpse of the 50th anniversary next year, according to Producer Barry Mihilewicz.

Like many of the Winter Festival events, the Country North Show is an avenue for the city’s youth to showcase their talents.

While several of this year’s performers are in their teenage years—including Brooke Andrews, Joshua Stumpf and Taya Lebel—Furber is one of the youngest in the show’s half of a century of existence.

“I perform when I can,” she said, adding it’s not normally planned. That’s unlike this show, where the cast all went through an audition process.

When asked about her musical inspirations, Furber swiftly answered with “My mom.”

“She’s just a really great performer. She has been doing lots of shows and performing for a long time. It’s almost been a tradition for me to go watch her at the events.”

Her mom is Kim Villeneuve, who also performed in this year’s show. She’s been performing on and off in the Country North Show for the past 20 years.

Kim Villeneuve performs at the Prince Albert Winter Festival’s Country North Show at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on Feb. 19, 2020. She’s sang in the show on and off for about 20 years. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

You’d also recognize her from The Rock Show Experience, which she said got her “out of her comfort zone.”

“(Performing is) like a totally different world. It just, it makes you feel good. You don’t even care who’s there, you just go and do your thing and perform and make people happy, and it makes me happy to do that,” she said.

“People have used this as a stepping stone,” said Mihilewicz.

“I’d like nothing more than to see one of these kids wind up with a career, and I think there’s talent there. They use the show as a starting point.”

He described Furber as a “little fireball” of a singer, with the potential of going far in the music career ahead of her.

“Over the years, there’s so many people who have come through this and gone on to play nationally, internationally.”

One of them is Randle Currie, Brad Paisley’s steel guitar player—his hometown is Sturgeon Lake. Additionally, Rod Janzen went on to play for Dierks Bentley and Tanya Tucker.

“It’s interesting because country music obviously around here is in pretty good shape. A lot of people are very excited to perform and I think the crowds that generally come out to see these shows indicate that there’s lots of people who still want to hear it,” added Mihilewicz.

“I still think the attraction for country music is, it’s folksy, it’s music for the people, it’s roots.”

On the other hand, this year’s Country North Show also had two performers who were in the first show in 1972: Lawrence Joseph and Maurice Villeneuve.

Tickets for the Country North Reunion Show on Saturday are $20 at the door plus a Winter Festival button. Doors open at 6 p.m. at Plaza 88.