London’s country music fans came out Friday night to support a great start to the CMA Ontario weekend, the media versus the Stars charity softball game at beautiful Labatt Memorial Park. The London Media team, represented by all media from Rogers to Country 104 to CTV London, took on the Country Stars team, represented by such names as The Abrams, River Town Saints, Dani Strong and London’s own Genevieve Fisher. The media took a commanding lead within the first few innings, but after the national anthem singers, Small Town Girls, managed some timely hits for the Stars along with some great defense by Eric Ethridge and the clearing of the bench to cover the while outfield, the Country Stars managed a comeback. It was a great game hosted by Matt Weaver from Country 104 Radio, and the Country Stars finished the game with a couple of timely hits to win 18-15.
After a short intermission, the fans were treated to an acoustic concert that included some award nominees for the upcoming awards show on Sunday. Despite being hit with a pitch during the game, Leah Daniels performed her new song “Get Her” along with a few other songs. Following Leah, with family and friends in the stands, was Genevieve Fisher performing a few of her top hits with her guitar player Tom. After the game, under the stadium lights of beautiful Labatt Memorial Park, The Abrams finished the night off with a great performance of their hit from last summer “Fine” and capped the night off with the classic country hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” with James rocking out on the Fiddle. It is safe to say that the fans were treated to an entertaining night on all levels.
Events continued Saturday evening at Covent Garden Market, under the shadow of the Market Tower, with the New Faces Concert. Hitting the stage to show their talent were names such as Ben Hudson, Sacha, and Fanshawe Falcons Alumni Steve Rivers. As the sun went down and after the New Faces left the stage, the crowd of 300 plus were treated to the local talent of Sarnia’s own Eric Ethridge and the always exciting River Town Saints lead by Chris Labelle who we saw steal the mic from Matt Weaver the night before at the softball game. The crowd was treated to an amazing performance by the River Town Saints who played a few of their hits like “Cherry Bomb” and even their own impression of “In the Club” by 50 Cent. With the concert running until midnight, the downtown area was treated to a great night as music could be heard from Market Square to Labatt Park at times.
On Sunday, the CMA Ontario Awards kicked off in downtown London at the historic Centennial Hall with presenters and stars such as Dani Strong, Buck Twenty, Derek Ruttan, and Tim Hicks. The show was opened by The Abrams performing “Fine”, their hit from last summer. Following the performance there was an unexpected announcement that long time President Bruce Good was stepping down after 8 years at the helm. His talents and expertise will be sadly missed.
For the third time running, Jason McCoy hosted the event, his music and jokes ignited the crowd yet again. The first award handed out for the night was the Rising Star of the Year. Little did Meghan Patrick know that this wasn’t going to be the last time she would be getting up for an award. Patrick ended up walking away with: Rising Star of the Year, Album of the Year, Female Artist of the Year, and Video of the year. Along with Meghan’s awards there were 15 others handed out including Single of the Year to River Town Saints, Fan Choice to James Barker Band, Roots Artist to the Abrams and Male Artist of the Year to Tim Hicks. The big award for London went to BX93 for Large Market Radio of the year. They were not the only local product to come away with an award as Fanshawe Falcon Music Program Alumni, Derek Ruttan, who co-wrote Blake Shelton’s “Came Here to Forget” with Craig Wiseman won Song Writer of the Year.
Besides the awards there was another unforgettable moment when Aaron Pritchett had his mic cut out while performing. The song was not over as the crowd at Centennial Hall helped him by singing with him to the end. The highlight of the night was the final award presented to legendary icon Blue Rodeo for Impact Award for their continuous shows since 1984.
All in all, the weekend was a great success for the city of London and CMA Ontario. Throughout the weekend many of the performers said that London has a lot to be proud of for having the best country fans in Ontario. The city and the fans were honoured to host the best Ontario country music has to offer.