The Recklaws (Jenna and Stuart Walker) perform during Country Music Awards Ontario at Centennial Hall in London. (DEREK RUTTAN, The London Free Press)
London landing yet another awards show – the city’s third time playing host to Ontario’s country music celebration – is a sign of a growing reputation as a destination for events, tourism boosters and politicians say.
The Country Music Association of Ontario is bringing its festivities back to London in 2020, the third time in four years the Forest City will host the awards.
Mayor Ed Holder says London is “fast gaining a reputation as Canada’s Music City.”
But another politician says it goes even further than that.
“London is becoming an Ontario destination location for sporting events, entertainment, for business, and that’s a positive thing for us,” said Coun. Shawn Lewis, one of council’s representatives on the Tourism London board.
“I think it speaks to the great job the team at Tourism London is doing that we not only attract these kind of opportunities, but that once we’ve had them, they want to come back, because we do a great job as a host city.”
Not all of those wins are flashy, Lewis said, pointing to associations and societies that may bring more niche events than city-wide fan frenzies. In 2021 and 2023, London will host a political conference, as government officials and municipal politicians descend on the city for the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference (AMO).
The CMAOntario Awards first came to London in 2017, returning for a second time in 2018.
Before that, the Canadian Country Music Awards gave London its country music hosting debut in 2016, with a four-day celebration of country music that helped pave the way for the city to land the 2019 Juno Awards.
“It’s great to be able to showcase our city,” Chris Campbell, London Tourism’s director of culture and entertainment tourism, said.
“We certainly recognize the value of welcoming the music industry to our city.”
Not only is it a boon for local businesses, the festival also brings opportunities for emerging London artists to network and move “to the next level,” he said.
“There’s a huge wealth of talent here locally and regionally. It’s a great opportunity to push these artists further,” Campbell said.
Campbell said Londoners should expect at least one outdoor show as well as a weekend of fan events leading up to the Sunday night awards show.
“We are fast gaining a reputation as Canada’s ‘Music City’ and for good reason,” London Mayor Ed Holder said in a statement.
“From intimate performances at Aeolian Hall to the main stage at London Music Hall or the award-winning Budweiser Gardens, we know how to party. When London plays host, the entire city rolls out the welcome mat.”
The country music celebrations will take over London May 29 to 31, 2020, with the big award show rounding out the weekend at Centennial Hall on Sunday, May 31.
More information about performers and tickets for the 2020 CMAOntario Awards is expected in the coming weeks.
But Lewis already has another event on his radar, the next big thing that he hopes London can land, despite past bids falling flat.
“For me, it’s the World Junior Hockey Championships. That’s on my wish list to really take London to the next level.”