Country paradise

Danielle Coles | Jenny Sweet | Angie Cook
Danielle Coles | Jenny Sweet | Angie Cook

The numbers may have been down but the quality was not, say the organisers of this year's Gourmet Paradise Country Music Awards in Blenheim.

Vicki Downes, from Blenheim, won the overall award in the finals last night, beating 140 other acts from Wellington and around the South Island.

The annual event, run by the Blenheim Country Music Club, attracted a field ranging in age from eight to 80, who competed for prizes in 21 sections during the heats on Saturday and Sunday.

Thirty-four acts took part in the finals concert last night at the Marlborough Floor Pride Civic Theatre.

Awards convenor John Galloway said the number of entrants was down on previous years, because a group of regular competitors had won entry to the Tamworth County Music Festival in Australia. Only one finalist was chosen in some categories for last night's finals, while the heats were shorter than usual.

However, Mr Galloway said he was confident that the competitors who had gone to Australia would be back to perform in Marlborough next year. Their absence had not lowered the standard of competition, and the event had gone "brilliantly".

"I don't believe it's detracted from the quality of other years. I think they're up to the standard of any other year."

The Marlborough Express