While the artists turned it up for Canadian country music’s biggest night, it was the fans who stole the show.
Saskatoon hosted the Canadian Country Music Association awards at a packed SaskTel Centre Sunday. The nationally televised show drew locals and others from across Saskatchewan and Canada.
“We’ve been having a great time checking out Saskatoon – all the restaurants, all the sunshine and the margaritas,” said Pat Labreche, who flew from Vancouver to support her nephew, Jimmy Thow, from the duo Sons of Daughters.
Janelle Olorenshaw drove in an hour and a half from Watrous with her family for the event. She volunteered when Saskatoon first hosted the CCMA awards in 2012 and loved the experience so much, she brought her husband and two daughters to this year’s show.
“We’ve travelled all across North America for concerts, but when there’s something this big so close to home, it makes it really easy and it brings so many people here, it’s just great,” she said.
The televised two-hour show kicked off with an energetic performance from Alberta duo High Valley, which featured brothers Brad and Curtis Rempel singing amongst fans in the pit crowds around the main stage.
The energy stayed throughout the show, even as audience members adjusted to the flow of waiting out commercial breaks. During one such time, the crowd happily sang aloud to The Last Saskatchewan Pirate by The Arrogant Worms.
The show’s 12 performances also didn’t disappoint. Gord Bamford sang with Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy as fans helped move a massive Canadian flag across the arena and members of 15 Wing in Moose Jaw took the stage to be thanked for their service.
Madeline Merlo sang her hit Motel Flamingo surrounded by plastic pink flamingos, while The Washboard Union dazzled with a giant disco ball and hundreds of balloons for Our Time to Shine.
Alberta’s Brett Kissel gave a memorable performance of his new work, We Were That Song, and topped it by handing his guitar to a tiny fan wearing a cowboy hat.
Dean Brody, Chad Brownlee, Tim Hicks, James Barker Band, Jess Moskaluke, Meghan Patrick and Dallas Smith rounded out the rest of the Canadian performers.
International guest Blake Shelton received a warm welcome from fans before doing a broadcast debut of I’ll name the dogs. Fellow U.S. artist Brett Young also took the stage with his smash hit In Case You Missed It.
The night’s biggest winners each took home two awards. Brett Kissell collected hardware for Male Artist of the Year and Video of the Year for I didn’t fall in love with your hair, a song about a married couple dealing with the wife’s cancer battle.
Dallas Smith picked up Single of the Year for Autograph, and Album of the Year for Side Effects.
Meghan Patrick was the only woman to win during Sunday’s show, earning the Rising Star award and dethroning Langenburg’s Jess Moskaluke as Female Artist of the Year.
Moskaluke, who has won the award the last three years, was the first to congratulate Patrick with a hug.
As for presenters, the biggest cheers were given to Saskatchewan Roughriders Kevin Glenn and Brendon Labatte.
The show wrapped promptly at 7 p.m., and left some fans wanting to see how Saskatoon looked to the rest of Canada.
“We’re going to go home and watch it to really see,” said Shirley Ironside, who came in from Rosetown to watch the CCMAs with her daughter.
Next year’s award show is set to be hosted in Hamilton, Ont.
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