Local entertainers of all kinds were recognized Sunday during the Forsyth County Entertainment Awards ceremony at the Millennium Center.
Hundreds of well-dressed attendees strolled along a red carpet into the venue to watch as singers, dancers and actors were honored for their work. Awards were also handed out in categories for graphic designers, creative writers, DJs, photographers and other disciplines.
Ellen Leak founded the awards and first held them last year. Known as DJ Koolaide on the local music circuit, Leak said she came up with the idea for the awards after DJ’ing at a wedding for a particularly difficult client. She thought that there should be some kind of recognition for entertainers who perform their jobs under often taxing circumstances.
“All of us are chasing a dream, and it gave us something to look forward to,” Leak said.
Public nominations were sought for each of the 27 categories. The nominated entertainers in each category put on a showcase earlier in the year for a panelof judges charged with picking the winners. In the case of ties among the judges, online voting by the public decided the winner.
The event had all the trappings of televised award shows. The name of each nominee in each category was read, and there was a drum-roll before the winners’ names were called. The victors walked to the stage to applause to give acceptance speeches, some even slipped in a few lines of a song. Winners expressed gratitude to their supporters, collaborators and fans and praised the ceremony for providing recognition and inspiration.
“It’s a pleasure to be finally heard, I love that,” Male Country Artist winner Matthew Allivato told attendees. “And to everyone that’s in this building who thinks they can be a musician or an artist or anything that so many tell you ‘no,’ do it and don’t care what people tell you.”
Virginia Walker, a rapper known as State Da Truth, was also a winner, taking home the Female Hip Hop Artist award. Though she has performed at numerous venues locally and around the state, the Forsyth County Entertainment Award was her very first honor.
“A shout-out to all the nominees in the female hip hop category,” Walker said as she accepted the honor. “I’m not just accepting it for myself, I’m accepting it for the ladies because it’s a ladies’ movement. A lot of times we are overlooked in a male-dominated industry, but we’re here too.”
William Furches took home his second FCAE. Last year, he took home the Food Service award for his company A Slice of Heaven Deserts, which specializes in creating cakes and other sweet treats. This year, he won in the Male Interpretive Dance category for his Testimony Mime Ministry.
“It’s very humbling; it gives you drive to go on,” Furches said of his back-to-back honors.
Though dancing at churches, weddings and family gatherings keeps him busy, Furches said he keeps the fourth Saturday of each month open so that he can feed and perform for the homeless at Macedonia Worship Center.
Several special honors were also presented. The Crystal Diamond Honorarium – given to entertainers who were pioneers or have made major contributions – were presented to music producer Patrick Douthit (also known as 9th Wonder), promoter Jarrard Goldsmith of Goldfinger, Inc. and Diamond Life Concerts, and Community Arts Cafe owners Jim and Cathy Tedder. Lynn Rhoades and Nathan Ross Freeman, co-founders of the teen writing organization Authoring Action, were each presented with an award.
“If this is about saving lives, if this is about enlivening souls, if this is about handing the world over, putting the world into the hands of our youth, then I’m up for this,” Freeman said in accepting his award.
Attendees also heard from AIDS Care Service Director Jesse Duncan and activist Wanda Brendle Moss, both of whom talked about the mission of the agency and HIV/AIDS awareness, and a diverse array of musical acts – Carlos Bocanegra, Cedric Moser and Dion Fowler (who hosted the event).
Taylor Ann Fleshman, John Hollerman and Khiana Meyer received Teen Entertainer awards, and Ginaya Meyer received the Teen Artist award. Other awards went to Christian Voit (painter), Meredith Sanchez (female actor), Lance Megginson (male actor), Manning Crowell (creative writer), Lions and Liars (band), Court and Friends (jazz ensemble), April Waller (female country artist), DJ Jamal (DJ), Rodney Archie (gospel artist), Exalted Praise (gospel group), Mark Vega (graphic designer), Robb County (hip hop male), Lawanda Lash (female interpretive dancer), Sound Lizzard Productions (music company), Tremayne Blair (producer), Bud McKenzie (music group), Greg “Catman” Good (sports entertainer), Scott Burton (videographer), Rachel G Photography (photographer), Joshua Moyer (rock/pop), Jerry White (male R&B), Tanya Ross (female R&B), Shante McKoy (female musician), Thomasina Flowers (Entrepreneur of the Year) and Rene Roman (male musician and Entertainer of the Year).