The finalists for the Appalachian Arts and Entertainment Awards — the Appys — were announced during a live video Jan. 23, which has already garnered attention, drawing 3,600 views.

The panel revealing the winners consisted of: Joe Campbell (director of the MAC and Fine Arts at Big Sandy Community and Technical College), Dr. Denise King (provost at BSCTC), Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapelton, Brooke Lemonds of Prestonsburg Tourism, Jeremiah Parsons of Paintsville Tourism and Jill Hamlin (assistant director of Fine Arts at BSCTC, and founder/director of the Appys).

“We had over 250,000 public votes, and I’m so excited for these nominees,” Jill Hamlin said. “The top from each category were configured from the voting, and these are the people who are our finalists for the Appy awards. Now, we are gearing up for the ceremony, which is when the winners will be announced.”

Hamlin said the Appys is an Appalachian version of awards shows such as the Grammys.

“There is a red carpet, we have performances, and we have presenters who will present these awards,” she said.”The red carpet starts at 6 pm and after the show, there is an after-party at the Jenny Wiley Convention Center.”

Hamlin said a VIP package is available, which includes the red carpet entrance, the show itself and the after-party.

“The after-party is a great chance for people to mix and mingle with winners and presenters,” Hamlin said. She said this is a great way to network, especially for the students and up-and-coming artists.

“There are scholarships given within the education category” Hamlin said. “For example, the school that wins the best high school choir will be presented with a scholarship. It will be provided to the choir director to be given to one of his or her students. That student can then take the scholarship and go into any program that Big Sandy offers, because Big Sandy recognizes that there is art in absolutely everything.

“The physical awards are made by Big Sandy students,” Hamlin said. “They are one-of-a-kind and you can only get them from the Appys; they are not in a magazine, and they can not be ordered.”

There are 13 states within the Appalchian region, and Hamlin said nominations came in from every state.

“That’s another part of what the Appys is; changing the stigma of what Appalachia really is,” she said. “This isn’t about Prestonsburg, Paintsville or Pikeville, this is showcasing local and regional talent. Appalachia is known for its art, entertainment and education systems, and we take that for granted. Home is where the heart is, and you can’t have heart without art.

“It’s high time that Appalachia gets recognized for the things we provide '' Hamlin said. “We have presenters coming from internationally because they believe in this program.”

Hamlin said the event is for all ages and people need to come out and support these local and regional artists that are up and coming. The Appy awards are scheduled for March 18 at the Mountain Arts Center. For more information on the Appys, visit the Appalachian Arts and Entertainment Awards Facebook page.

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