Westjet turns Gate 28 into jazz club

About 110 passengers heading for Toronto got a Christmas surprise when they reached Gate 28 at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Sunday.

WestJet had turned the departure lounge into a jazz club, complete with a performance by Juno-nominated singer Matt Dusk, a visit from “Mrs. Claus” and a buffet of food and drinks.

Oh, and five people also won gift cards for a return flight to anywhere WestJet flies.

The event was Day 9 of the WestJet Christmas Miracle: 12 Flights of Christmas project.

Quinn Clancy was one of those who won a big prize, given out as a reward for being willing to step up and dance with Mrs. Claus while Dusk sang traditional Christmas carols.

“It’s pretty cool,” Clancy said. “Amazing. Totally caught us off-guard but it’s pretty cool.”

Clancy and his wife Brandi were on their way home to Barrie, Ont., on Sunday, and were tickled pink to encounter the WestJet-blue-clad Mrs. Claus. Volunteers wearing Christmas hats of the same shade were abundant, as were glasses filled with similar-hued drinks from the buffet table. White leather sofas were arranged in rows in front of an intimate stage setting where Dusk performed in a trio with Stephen MacDonald on saxophone and and Martin Anderson on piano.

Clancy said he travels fairly often. Although he now lives in Ontario, he was born in Halifax.

“My family’s here, so I’m here quite often,” Clancy said.

The electrician said they were in Halifax for his brother-in-law’s surprise 60th birthday party. It was a quick visit, coming in Thursday, but the airport festivities topped it off nicely.

“Awesome,” Clancy said of his return-flight gift. “(I) might have to put it to good use New Year’s Eve.

“We were talking about going to Vegas over the holidays because the Maple Leafs are playing the Las Vegas Knights New Year’s afternoon. So, that’s probably going to be a destination for us.”

The other passengers weren’t left out. They all got Christmas stockings with copies of Dusk’s Christmas CD and noise-cancelling headphones.

Leslie Duffy and her daughter Madeline were on their way back to Guelph after visiting Halifax to check out Dalhousie University as a possible school for the teen.

“This is amazing,” Leslie said. “It’s absolutely wonderful. You’d never expect to come to the airport and have something like this happening.

“It’s my daughter’s 17th birthday so it just kind of makes the morning extra-special.”

She said if they weren’t fully in the Christmas spirit before, they are now.

“Just coming to Halifax this weekend started to get us into the spirit but this really kicks it off.”

It also helped Madeline anticipate making Halifax her home.

“It’s really cool,” the high school senior said. “I really wasn’t expecting it.”

Dusk appreciated how much the passengers got into the spirit of things with him.

“As a performer, it’s like a conversation with someone. If you’re in a bar and you go up and say ‘hi,’ they give you information and you give it back, you can have good dialogue and this audience was giving me a lot of dialogue,” Dusk said. “In my opinion, Christmas music and holiday music is all about a collective. As a kid we used to go door-to-door carolling. So this is kind of like bringing me back to those moments as a kid.”

It’s the sixth year for WestJet’s Christmas Miracles promotion. The videos have been viewed millions of times around the world. This year, the company is hosting 12 such events over 12 days at different locations across the country with different special guests and prizes. Halifax was the ninth location. Previous events this year have already been held in Montreal, Calgary, Toronto, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Edmonton, Ottawa and Vancouver.

WestJet spokeswoman Lauren Stewart said the Halifax leg turned out to be a fantastic event.

“Everybody was truly surprised to see Matt Dusk appear on the stage and I think the one thing I’ve seen in the past nine days is it’s been fantastic that people are slowing down, getting off their phone and just taking some time to just enjoy the moment. I think that’s really part of what we’re trying to do is surprise people but also get everyone in the Christmas spirit and it definitely happened today.”

Each event is posted online through Facebook Live and video is later available at the Christmas Miracle portal on the WestJet website.