AUSTRALIAN country music's night of nights will return to Tamworth in 2021, despite the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On January 23, the Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre (TRECC) will play host to the 49th annual Golden Guitar Awards, albeit under slightly different circumstances.
Despite next year's country music festival being cancelled, the awards will be held but are only open to those within the industry.
Golden Guitars executive producer Peter Ross said the awards going ahead would be a major boost for the industry.
"We're thrilled to announce this event will be a live industry-only concert here in Tamworth and it will be live streamed on the night to country music fans right across the nation," Mr Ross said.
"The local economy and the country music industry has taken a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, so our plan is all about giving back and supporting.
"We will be inviting the finalists and the presenters to Tamworth, we will be assisting them with their accommodation and some of their expenses while they're in our city.
"Ultimately we can control the event from a creative, logistical and financial perspective, which we believe is a responsible plan and a responsible outcome for both the ratepayers and the awards themselves."
At this stage, the event will only offer restricted access to awards nominees which will be announced by country stars Blake O'Connor and Ashleigh Dallas, but Mr Ross did not rule out allowing the public into the venue.
"The finalists for the 2021 awards will be announced via live stream at 11am on November 19 from the spiritual home of Australian country music, the Tamworth War Memorial Town Hall," he said.
"We are constructing the plan around the possibility of opening up some seats to our local audience, as long as everything keeps moving forward in a COVID-safe way.
"It really is a bit of a watch this space feeling around that at the moment."
Country Music Association of Australia (CMAA) chairman Dan Biddle said the event had attracted a record number of entries.
"What is patently obvious is that music is vital in our pandemic-hit world, and country music will always rise to the top no matter the difficult circumstances the arts industry finds itself in," Mr Biddle said.
"APRA AMCOS Song of the Year had 111 entries, quietly slipping past the previous record number of entries in 2020 by seven, and Apple Music Single of the Year had 119 entries, five more entries than in 2019 and a very respectable 22 entries over 2020.
"We received 87 nominations for New Talent of the Year, which is reflective of country music's resurgence in recent years and it's new state of omnipresence, but the stand-out record was in the Video of the Year category.
"There were an extraordinary 113 entries this year, eclipsing last year's record number by a massive 28 entries.
"We're very excited and we think it should be great for the industry."