The Reklaws pose on the red carpet at the Canadian Country Music Awards in Calgary, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CCMA Awards converge on London after going virtual last year

Cowboy boots are hitting the southern Ontario streets of London as the Canadian Country Music Association kicks off its annual awards show tonight — this time in person.

The country music celebration returns to the live-event sphere for the first time since Calgary hosted in 2019.

Brett Kissel from Flat Lake, Alta., heads into the bash already having won best video for “Make A Life, Not A Living,” at a ceremony last night that handed out the bulk of the awards. He also won a special live innovation award for his tour, “Brett Kissel: Live At The Drive-In,” and his production company claimed best country music program or special for a one-hour documentary about the tour.

Tonight, Kissel competes for entertainer of the year against Dean Brody of Smithers, B.C.; MacKenzie Porter of Medicine Hat, Alta.; the Reklaws from Cambridge, Ont.; and Dallas Smith of Langley, B.C.

The CCMAs say they will return to Calgary for next year’s bash in 2022, when a week’s worth of country music events are set to culminate with an awards show at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Tonight’s bash is hosted by Lindsay Ell of Calgary and “Canada’s Drag Race” winner Priyanka, known out of drag as Mark Suknanan of Toronto. The show streams live Nov. 29 on the Global TV app and Amazon Prime Video, and an encore presentation airs Friday on Global TV.

Awards will be handed out in eight categories, including entertainer of the year, fans’ choice, top album, top single, top female artist, top male artist, top group or duo, and rising star.

The ceremony is expected to take place in front of a fully vaccinated crowd at the downtown Budweiser Gardens.

The CCMA has been enforcing a vaccination policy, which it announced in September, at all Country Music Week events leading up to and including the award show. COVID-19 cases have been rising in the province this month.

Attendees, including performers, presenters, their teams and guests must be fully vaccinated to be part of tonight’s show. In-person performers include the Reklaws, Smith and Ell.

U.S. country star Chris Stapleton, who won six Country Music Association Awards earlier this month, is set to perform virtually, as are Thomas Rhett and Walker Hayes.

Last year’s show was a modified virtual event due to COVID-19 restrictions. The multicity production was filmed in Toronto and Nashville weeks before it was broadcast.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2021.

Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press