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Country music week counts down to Canadian Country Music Awards on Sunday

Calgary is set to become once again become the ultimate host city for the nation’s country music fans, at least according to organizers for the Canadian Country Music Awards.

The city is hosting the awards for a record 10th time, while simultaneously marking the the 40th anniversary of the CCMAs.

Leading up to the awards on Sunday, Calgarians will have the chance to take in more than 60 artists at 16 venues as part of the CCMA Off-Country festival. There are no cover charges for any of the musical performances this year.

“This is going to be an incredible four days of country music, as we bring together country’s biggest and brightest stars from across the country,” said CCMA host committee chair Ben Graham.

New to Calgary this year is a larger number of venues for the Off-Country festival than in 2019, the last time Calgary hosted the CCMAs. The festival week has an expanded number of local, emerging, women in song, and Indigenous artists performing this year.

Among the artists and groups performing as part of Off-Country are The Frontiers, Emma Peterson, Jess Knights, Ava Wild, Cold Little Crow, and the First Nations Arts Alliance.

A full list of performers, venues, and dates and times for the Off-Country music festival is at ccma.org/country-music-week/off-country.

Country Music Week is also holding fan events, including songwriter sessions with artists like Jason Benoit, Aaron Goodvin, Nate Haller, Don Amero, Kyle McKearney, and Dean Brody.

On Sept. 8, CCMA is hosting a legends show at the Martha Cohen Theatre. It will have Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame inductee George Fox, alongside legendary musicians including George Canyon, Patricia Conroy, Doc Walker, and Jade Eagleson.

The CCMA award ceremony is being held at the Saddledome on Sept. 11. The broadcast begins nationally at 7 p.m. Albertans Gord Bamford and Brett Kissel will be joined by some of the biggest names in Canadian country music for the ceremony.

Tickets to the Canadian Country Music Awards are available online at ccma.org.

Multi-million boost to Calgary economy

Tourism Calgary provided an estimate that the CCMA and associated festival activities would generate $12 million in economic output for the city.

“Events like this helped to promote not just the Canadian music scene, but the long term growth and stability of Alberta’s music industry,” said Tanya Fir, Alberta’s Minister of Jobs, Economy, and Innovation.

Speaking at the launch of Country Music Week on on Wednesday, she said that the province was providing $1.6 million in grant funding to the CCMAs.

“This is a huge opportunity for Albertans to celebrate the Canadian country music industry, and for visitors and guests to explore what Calgary and Alberta have to offer when they’re not taking part in CCMA activities,” Fir said.

“Country music is in our roots, and I know Alberta is ready to welcome country music talent and fans from across the country.”

The award ceremony, and associated activities are expected to draw more than 6,000 people to the city.

The awards and associated events are being supported by over 130 volunteers, many of whom signed up to help within 15 minutes of the call being put out by the organizing committees.

CCMAs represent changing face of tourism for Calgary

Jeff Hessel, senior vice president of marketing for Tourism Calgary, said that Country Music Week and its associated events were very important for the city’s tourism partners.

“It was very important for the host committee to not only just have the CCMAs come in with their events, but also ensure that as many businesses and artists could benefit as much as possible,” Hessel said.

“The legacy committee of the host committee has done a great job putting together a whole bunch of different programs to actually make that happen—the biggest one being Off-Country.”

He said that this would activate all quadrants of the city. That ensures that the $12 million in economic benefits isn’t just centralized in the downtown core.

“It takes a bit of effort to try to make sure that we’re incorporating the quadrants, letting people know that there’s things in the quadrants, and it does take some effort,” Hessel said.

“So we’re really very appreciative to the legacy committee for all the work that they’ve done to to have those conversations and make those things happen.”

Hessel said that the past few years of Covid-19 have had a significant impact on the more than 950 partners of Tourism Calgary. Having live music during County Music Week was one of the ways, he said, that they’re activating locations across the city and generating sustainable consumer demand.

“What we’re finding is that some of the old ways that we maybe would have done things—packages, discounts, passes things like that—are are not really very effective, or at least not not to the partners at this point in time, because they are they need to make some money and some revenue and just get back on their feet,” he said.

“What we are finding is working is programming and activation, and just finding ways to activate their locations and bring some excitement.”