The Country Music Alberta Awards in Red Deer overcame Sunday’s poor weather and some cancellations to celebrate something bigger than talent.
While local popular performers — including Gord Bamford, Nice Horse and Renegade Station — were among those vying for awards, “this year, the event has a much bigger purpose,” said Chard Morrison, secretary/treasurer of Country Music Alberta.
For extended periods since 2020, the independent music community across Canada ground to a near halt because singing was considered a high-risk activity during the pandemic.
Morrison added the shutdown of live performance events impacted tens of thousands of musicians, artists and venues.
He hopes the Sunday night event would mark a re-start for the industry by “having our membership share their talents and gifts with the fans of music.”
“It’s the arts the people turned to” to get through the boredom of COVID shut-downs, added Morrison. “Now we’re proud to be one of the first major conferences to help… lead the charge with the heartbeat of country music — three chords and the truth.”
Since the 2021 awards had to be presented virtually, he was initially nervous about whether anyone would come out for the in-person event.
“We were blown away with the interest and support,” when nearly 400 guests booked tickets to the Country Music Alberta Awards at the Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre in Red Deer.
Of course, Morrison and other organizers couldn’t plan the weather.
On Sunday, Environment Canada issued a snowfall warning since poor visibility had made highway travel tenuous. As a result, Morrison said about 50 to 60 people cancelled. But many others were still hoping to make it after the sun came out mid-afternoon.
Some guests had arrived for the two-day event on Saturday — before the weather turned.
COVID-19 made planning for this year’s awards weekend a significant challenge, said Morrison, “as our vision has changed drastically and numerous times as mandates and restrictions have evolved over the last few months.”
Since everyone is moving out of pandemic restrictions “at their own pace,” he was encouraging people “to be kind to everyone attending the awards weekend.”
Performances by Nice Horse, Alex Hughes, Newlaw, and Robert Adam were featured during a Kick-off Party and Open Mic evening on Saturday. On Sunday, fans heard the stories behind the songs at Songwriter’s Showcases. The gala dinner and awards ceremony was to follow.
The 2020 winners were:
Fans’ Choice Award: NewLaw, Roots Artist of the Year: Ryan Lindsay, Video of the Year: High School by Nice Horse, Album of the Year: Every Little Town by The Prairie States, Single of the Year: Girl who Didn’t Care by Tenille Townes, and Songwriter(s) of the Year: Looking for a Lockdown with You, Joni Delaurier, Troy Kokol, Teresa Schmidt
Other winners were: Group or Dup of the Year: The Roadhammers, Male Artist of the Year: Aaron Goodvin, Horizon Youth Award: Martina Dawn, Horizon Female of the Year: Hailey Benedict, Musician of the Year: Mitch Jay, and Interactive Artist of the Year: Nice Horse.
The Industry Person of the Year was Laurie Brown, Porch Swing Entertainment and Live Venue or Presenting Series of the Year was Cook County Saloon, Edmonton.