Many music fans and residents in Merritt, B.C., are excited to see American country music singer and actress Reba McEntire filming in their neighbourhood this week.
McEntire is starring in a film tentatively titled The Hammer that's expected to be released this year.
According to the production team, McEntire and fellow actors have been working at several locations, such as hotels and gas stations, along Merritt's Quilchena Ave.
McEntire, 67, is no stranger to the B.C. Interior city, dubbed the country music capital of Canada, having performed at the Merritt Mountain Music Festival in 2007.
A mural of McEntire on Quilchena Ave. is one of more than 20 in the city featuring country music stars.
Kamloops resident Mahkayla Spahan-Charlie says she and her family are huge fans of McEntire, and that she was excited to spot the singer filming early this week.
"I finally actually got to see her up close and I was like, 'Hey, this is cool!" she said, adding that she requested a photo with McEntire to show her grandmother, who always played McEntire's music at home — which Spahan-Charlie grew up listening to.
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Abdulla Daiani, location manager for the movie, says producers considered Kamloops as a filming location, but eventually went with Merritt because they want "the look of the western side of the United States."
"We found the right locations there," Daiani said.
"We rented a private land next to the Moon Shadows RV Campground, and we turned it into one of our sets ... we shot the Coldwater Hotel and Quilchena Hotel, that very old, very beautiful hotel."
Daiani says McEntire is glad to return to Merritt after two years of the pandemic.
Susan Roline, director of the Canadian Society of Country Music and Heritage, says McEntire's return helps rekindle Merritt's country music spirit and sense of community.
"We all isolated and stayed home, and people lost connections with people. Anything we can do in a community to bring people back out into the community, to get that connection back again is important," Roline said.