The Stettler Legion departed from the tried, tested and true with its New Year’s Eve celebration this past Saturday, Dec. 31, styling its annual celebration to appeal to a younger crowd.
According to Rosalind LaRose, the Legion was originally looking at hiring the same band from the year before, but were approached by Third Degree, a rock’n’roll cover band from Camrose that has a local connection in its drummer, former Stettler resident Jason Sabbe.
The band’s country-free and modern repertoire appealed to LaRose, and she presented the band’s offer to the Legion, who in the end decided to hire the band.
It wasn’t a choice the Legion regretted, according to LaRose.
“You can always tell when you have a good band,” she said. “The dance floor is never empty, and ours was never, ever empty.”
With bandmates Mick Dingo, Tom Humeny, and Doug Hartman, Third Degree played from about 8 p.m. until midnight, keeping the crowd entertained.
The evening also featured a “Manitoba Social,” spearheaded by two of the newer members of the Stettler Legion, Brian and Christine Neufeld. The pair have been part of the Legion for about a year now, LaRose said.
“They came to us and said, ‘We want to do a Manitoba Social,’ and of course we all went, ‘What’s a Manitoba Social?'” LaRose recalled with a laugh.
A Manitoba Social, it turned out, was a type of sandwich buffet with rye bread, cold cuts, pickles, and mustard; people could build their own sandwiches to their specifications.
“At first, we were kinda hesitant,” LaRose said. “But it turned out really amazing. And everyone loved it. It was spectacular.”
Seeing a younger crowd become involved was also heart-warming, LaRose said, as in recent years the Legion has had trouble recruiting new members – not just in Stettler, but Canada-wide.
“We want people to know we’re not just for older people,” LaRose said. “That was part of why we went with a younger band and more modern music. In the past, we’ve catered to our senior members, but that doesn’t get younger, new people in here.”
When some people brought concerns to LaRose about the music and Manitoba Social ideas prior to the event, LaRose said that she just emphasized how important it was to attract the younger generation.
“Some of us are getting older,” she said. “We’re not veterans anymore – some of us are even grandchildren of veterans. It’s time to pass on the torch.”
Seeing how excited drummer Sabbe was simply to come home and play for his hometown also made the event exciting for her, and others, LaRose said.
“You could see how ecstatic he was to be home performing before his home town,” she said.
The party brought in about 100 people, and the new year was rung in with singing and champagne.
“We danced all night, we sang all night, we had fun all night,” LaRose said. “It was definitely the most spectacular New Year’s Eve party I’ve attended in years.”