Tux and Toques tribute a surreal experience for longtime Country North performer, producer, and MC
Honorary President of the Prince Albert Winter Festival, Nancy Hagen (centre), poses for a photo with board members Trina Joseph (left) and Bev Erickson (right) after receiving a at the Tux and Toques Gala on Saturday January 28th ceremonial jacket. — Jason Kerr/Daily Herald
The musical legacy of the Prince Albert Winter Festival took center stage as the annual Tux and Toques Gala took place on Saturday when the Wildlife Federation building packed to celebrate the 2023 Honorary Chairperson, Nancy Hagen.
Hagen was praised for her contributions to Winterfest by friends and colleagues during a short tribute video after the formal dinner. She said it was an exciting but surreal experience.
“What went through my head was, ‘Oh my god, is this really happening to me and am I worthy of it,'” she said, laughing. “It felt really great.”
Hagen, a well-known local singer and vocal coach, first appeared on the festival’s 1982 Country North Show. Since then, she has attended every Country North show but four, and has worked as a producer, co-producer, backing vocalist, audition judge and MC. In some years, she even held multiple roles for the same show.
A few close friends inspired Hagen to begin her musical career, with one of the biggest being current Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation CEO Brynn Boback-Lane. Boback-Lane was among several people who recorded congratulations for Hagen as part of the tribute video.
Hagen said all of the honors meant a lot to her, but Boback-Lane’s was very special.
“When I came to the Winter Festival and the Country North Show, I was very involved with her and another friend of mine, Duff Robison,” Hagen recalled. “We went to high school together (and) acted in it, so yeah, it was very exciting.”
Hagen said Prince Albert has always had a strong musical tradition, so it’s not surprising that music events have proven to be some of the most popular over the years.
“There used to be ‘there must be something in the water in Prince Albert’ because so many singers, songwriters and musicians have come out of PA and done really great things,” she said.
“There’s such a diverse group of people that come to the shows and perform on the shows. I think that makes it unique.”
While Hagen is proud of her contributions to the winter festival, she is even prouder of the many students who have followed her path. About half a dozen of her former singing students have performed on the show, and that’s even more exciting than singing yourself.
SUBHEADLINE: Winter Festival sold out
After hosting a full house at the Prince Albert Wildlife Federation events center on Saturday, the only question for winter festival organizers is whether they will move next year’s Tux and Toques Gala to a larger facility.
This year’s event attracted a capacity of 172 people, a slight increase from the 150 attendees in 2022.
Winter Festival President Bev Erickson said the question has been asked before and will likely come up again after another successful year.
“I like the intimacy of the venue choice,” Erickson said. “Personally, I don’t like a 500 seat thing. I like being able to go from table to table and visit and know everyone who is in the room. I’m very comfortable staying with this number, or maybe an extra table here and there if we can accommodate it.
Musical guests Andon Schumack, Joshua Stumpf, Taya Lebel and Mercy Glover perform during the Prince Albert Winter Festival Tux and Toques Gala. — Jason Kerr/Daily Herald
“We’ll probably talk about going to a bigger venue, but my personal opinion is that I’d like to stay where we are.”
The 2023 gala was the festival’s eighth overall, with a one-year break due to COVID. Erickson said the festival has been revived since that lone cancellation, and that Prince Albert residents and businesses remain keen to support it.
Proceeds from the event benefit Family Days at the Prince Albert Winter Festival. Family Days is a multi-day event running February 21-23, offering accessible and quality family entertainment for the cost of a Winter Festival button.
“We’ve started a new family event at the exhibition center, and we’re hoping that will explode and … be a place that people want to go,” Erickson said. “It is an event for children and guardians. You cannot drop off your children, but you are welcome to come with us.”