It was a whirlwind of activity this past weekend as London played host to the Canadian Country Music Association’s annual Country Music Week — with locals and visitors alike taking in the very best our city has to offer.
Kicking it all off Thursday night, Cowboys Ranch welcomed some of the best and brightest local talent for the official launch party, including Jason Mercer and Brothers Wilde, alongside musical powerhouses Nice Horse and hometown favourite Jessica Mitchell. Guests were treated to CCMA Swag and photo ops, as well as a chance to win tickets to the big show Monday night.
An incredible evening to be sure, but really, it was just the beginning.
In the following days, fans took in an abundance of events and activities across the downtown core and beyond.
On the musical front, The Blue Jay Sessions made their way to Union Ten Distillery with writers’ rounds taking over the venue every day throughout the weekend, featuring some major talent and performances from The Prairie States, Raquel Cole, Nicole Rayy, Doc Walker and more, wrapping up with an open-mic night.
The No. 1 destination for fans throughout the celebrations had to be London Music Hall – affectionately dubbed CCMA House. In addition to hosting Canadian country superstar Lindsay Ell on Friday night at Rum Runners, alongside opener and fellow 2021 CCMA nominee Robyn Ottolini, the venue welcomed SiriusXM’s Top of the Country Finale to the main stage, featuring Raquel Cole, Kelly Prescott and Tyler Joe Miller, with Miller taking home the title, as well as the $25,000 prize.
Saturday, Dundas Place was a-buzz with visitors checking out everything from the Country Classroom Live! performances from local country artists Justine Chantale, Patrick James Clarke, Aaron and Aimee Allen and Melissa Megan, to appearances from the incredible Eagle Flight Singers and Red Movement Dance Troupe.
Meanwhile, the Our Local Food Story event brought with it a slew of activities for both young and old, as well as demonstrations, a mini corn maze, interactive games and samples of some of the region's greatest produce. The London Fire Dept. squared off against the London Police Service in an epic tractor tug, while spectators agreed both the apple cider donuts and hard-boiled eggs were nothing short of a hit.
Inside, the Indigenous Artisan Market, upstairs at the Covent Garden Market Mezzanine, showcased a stunning display of Indigenous makers, while Vydel Sands tempted guests with Indigenous comfort food and Ojibwe artist Sean Couchie shared stories about his art that only his brush can tell.
Saturday also saw fans bump elbows with some of their musical heroes during the CCMA Fanfest, presented by Pure Country. One of the most beloved annual events of Country Music Week, this year’s Fanfest brought folks mask-to-mask (and socially distanced) to some of their favourite Canadian country stars and CCMA nominees, including Tenille Arts, Jade Eagleson, Tyler Joe Miller, Mackenzie Porter, The Reklaws, Brad Rempel of High Valley and Dallas Smith, for interviews and photo ops.
As day turned into night, London Music Hall kept the party going with a stacked line-up featuring performances and appearances by Shawn Austin, Tim Hicks, High Valley, Andrew Hyatt, JoJo Mason, Tyler Joe Miller, Jess Moskaluke, Steven Lee Olsen, MacKenzie Porter, Dallas Smith and Tim & The Glory Boys.
And there was even more to take in over the course of the evening as James Barker Band and Friends took over Centennial Hall for a sold-out show of epic proportions, while Palasad SocialBowl welcomed the CCMA Award-winning Sakamoto Agency hosting their annual mixer with sets from The Washboard Union, River Town Saints, The Abrams, Aaron Goodvin and more.
Sunday may have mellowed with two sessions of CCMA House Unplugged, sponsored by TD, but that didn’t mean the talent on hand wasn’t just as huge with acoustic sets and stories from 10 of the country’s brightest songwriting stars, including Tenille Townes, James Barker, Jade Eagleson and Brad Rempel, just to name a few.
Later that night, RBC Place London saw winners take home trophies in 29 categories at the CCMA Music Industry Gala Dinner & Awards presented by Music Canada — the first of two ceremonies held over the weekend. This was the first time the Canadian country music industry was able to gather in-person to celebrate in more than two years and the evening celebrated the best in the industry — from executives and artist-driven companies to recognized songwriters and performers. Hosted by Don Amero, JoJo Mason and Jess Moskaluke, the evening included unforgettable performances by Jade Eagleson, hometown girl Genevieve Fisher, Aaron Goodvin, Corb Lund ft. Katie Rox & Brandi Sidoryk (Nice Horse), Sacha and Tim & The Glory Boys.
Finally, it was time for the big show, as the industry elite, alongside thousands of eager fans, made their way to Budweiser Gardens for the 2021 CCMA Awards presented by TD.
Hosted by Lindsay Ell and Priyanka, the evening featured live performances by Don Amero, Tenille Arts, Lindsay Ell, Tim Hicks, High Valley, JoJo Mason, Tyler Joe Miller, Jess Moskaluke, Robyn Ottolini, Dallas Smith, MacKenzie Porter & Dustin Lynch, The Reklaws & Sacha and Tenille Townes. There were even special virtual appearances from Nashville heavyweights Walker Hayes, Thomas Rhett and Chris Stapleton.
Taking home the coveted Entertainer of the Year award for the third consecutive year was the night’s big winner Dallas Smith, who also landed top spot in the Single of the Year and Male Artist of the Year categories. Celebrating two artist category wins were Tenille Townes, Brett Kissel and The Reklaws, while newcomer Robyn Ottolini not only locked up her first-ever CCMA Awards performance, but a win for Rising Star, as well.
After an incredible five days on the national stage, London once again proved we can no-doubt live up to our newly acquired title of Canada’s first UNESCO City of Music.
And we can’t wait to see who we’ll get to welcome next.