Country music artists from the Rocky Mountain region made their way along the step-and-repeat on Saturday as the 7th annual Rocky Mountain Country Music Awards took place at the Union Colony Civic Center in Greeley.
The awards ceremony was founded in 2016 by iHeart radio host Shawn Patrick as a way to showcase the amazing talent in Colorado and Wyoming. The event has expanded in the last seven years to include artists, venues and festivals/events from Utah, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, Montana and North Dakota.
Awards were given out in 11 categories: New Artist of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Venue of the Year, Event/Festival of the Year, Musician of the Year, Entertainer of the Year and the Fan Army Award.
To be eligible for an award, nominees must be originally from a participating state or have lived in one of the states for a “lengthy period of time.”
Since its inception the awards have honored a variety of artists, including country superstar Dierks Bentley, local radio host Brian Gary and Eaton singer/songwriter Austin Wahlert along with festivals such as the Greeley Stampede and Cheyenne Frontier Days.
And this year was no different. Many local and northern Colorado artists like Wahlert and Sarahbeth Taite were nominated for awards alongside Wyoming band Chancey Williams and the Younger Brothers Band and Utah singer/songwriter Clayton Smalley.
“From the crowd out there, he’s created a monster,” Greeley Mayor John Gates said, chuckling. “This is my first time and I am so proud as the mayor of Greeley to be able to host this and it is such a wonderful event.”
As audience members settled into their seats, Teagan Joseph, 17, from Eaton, stunned the crowd with her amazing rendition of the national anthem. Joseph, who is legally blind, has a goal of sining the song at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
Before getting kicked out of the civic center for his shenanigans, Ace Montgomery, who claims to be the “best 90’s country music singer in the world,” graced the stage to perform his new song, “Don’t Shave Your Groin Locks,” alongside singer/songwriter Christopher Thomas.
Before getting started, Montgomery had to ensure that Thomas was 90’s country song worthy and looked the part. Known for his long flowing locks of black hair, Montgomery, the front man of the band Double Wide, whipped out a wig from his pants zipper and tossed it to the close-cropped Thomas, who then reluctantly placed it on his head.
Montgomery also claimed to have commandeered one of Clare Dunn’s belt buckle awards after the singer failed to attend a previous awards ceremony. Montgomery claimed that if Dunn wanted the prized award, she would have to “take it off of him.”
Host Patrick quickly returned to the stage to assure the audience that Montgomery (who actually is Shawn Patrick in costume) would not be interrupting things again and the show got on the road with performances and awards.
A variety of presenters from the music industry and the local community took their turn on the stage to name the nominees and winner in each category. University of Northern Colorado football head coach Ed McCaffrey, Greeley Hat Works owner Trent Johnson and Loveland resident and musician Craig Campbell were among the award presenters.
The Chris LeDoux Lifetime Achievement Award went to Greeley native Gary McMahan. The award pays tribute to the late Wyoming singer/songwriter and rodeo athlete by recognizing an artist who has helped elevate Rocky Mountain country music to another level throughout their career. McMahan turned his life growing up on a ranch into creating cowboy poetry and songs. McMahan has written songs for Chris LeDoux, Riders in the Sky and Ian Tyson. McMahan is also a championship yodeler.
“Being around my dad and the cowboys on the farm gave me a good school if you were going to be a western song writer because you know what rings true and what doesn’t with these old cowboys,” McMahan said.
Country artist Cody Cozz took home the Fan Army Winner award. This is the only award in the ceremony that is based solely on fan votes.
The Hadley Barrett Person of the Year Award is presented to a person from the country music scene who has done “incredible things” for their community. The award honors Barrett, a Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame announcer. Singer-songwriter Scooter Brown won the award. Brown is a Marine combat veteran who works with a variety of organizations that support military veterans and their families. Brown is a father of four children, two of them adopted, and he and his wife fosters and helps orphans from Eastern Europe.
This was Chancey William’s year as the artist took home awards for Musician of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Entertainer of the Year and Album of the year. William’s bandmate, Brooke Latka, also won for Musician of the Year. This was Latka’s second win in this category with the fiddle player took the title in 2020.
Other winners of the 2022 Rocky Mountain Country Music Awards include:
- Venue of the Year — The Whiskey Baron, Colorado Springs
- New Artist of the Year— Frank Ray
- Event/Festival of the Year— Cheyenne Frontier Days
- Male Vocalist of the Year — Ned LeDoux
- Female Vocalist of the Year —Clare Dunn
- Song of the Year — Ian Munsick for “Long Haul”
In addition to musical performances from Clare Dunn, Cody Cozz and other artists and bands, comedian and accordion player, Kevin Bennett, known as “The French Accent” entertained audience members. The Wyoming comedian auditioned for the television show “America’s Got Talent” in 2018 but was buzzed off stage by all four judges. Greeley magician Ryan Beyer also wowed the crowd with his act before presenting another award.
For more information on the Rocky Mountain Country Music Awards, or to attend the 2023 event, go to www.rockymountaincountrymusicawards.com.