Walking across a rain-soaked field at the now-defunct Merritt Mountain Music Festival, Eric Phillips never envisioned the role he'd come to play in country music more than a decade later.
The Hammond resident recalls it was pouring rain and a voice out of the dark called his name, telling him that for only five dollars he could be a member of the B.C. Country Music Association.
That voice belonged to Kevin Assoun, a shovel-playing musician who Phillips knew from the Maple Ridge Hotel.
"I gave Kevin the five bucks and have been involved with the BCCMA ever since, with volunteering for them at Merritt, the awards shows, and any other event that I was able to help with," Phillips said.
Well his role as the consummate community volunteer - and specifically the tireless help he's offered to the BCCMA, was acknowledged.
During the province's annual awards event in Langley recently, Phillips was crowned the organization's volunteer of the year.
"Eric has proven to be a dedicated and dependable volunteer and always willing to contribute to the success of all the events he volunteers for," said Linda Corscadden, BCCMA's long-time volunteer and membership coordinator and vice-president.
In addition to the BCCMA, Phillips also volunteers with other groups such as Variety: The Children's Charity, Meals on Wheels, Journey On, Locks for Love, and the Rockin' River Music Festival.
"It meant a lot to me to be recognized," said Phillips, especially moved to receive the award from Corscadden, who he describes as his inspiration. She won country personality and humanitarian of 2012 the same night.
Asked if he's a closeted country singer, Phillips laughed: "I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, with a forklift."