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A sellout audience of 1200 country fans gathered to see 41 finalists duke it out for the prestigious senior finals award from 7.30 last night.
Event convener Philip Geary said judges had been impressed with the "very high calibre" of competitors, across all categories.
"I know our judges had a hard time picking out winners from a talented bunch of youngsters at our junior and intermediate contests on Saturday, and it’s been a similarly hard task with the seniors tonight. We’ve been delighted to see 712 entrants vying for honours this year."
That number was the third-highest in the history of the awards, which had been running for 44 years, he said.
He put the boosted entry numbers down in part to a "first class" prize package, introduced last year and targeted at launching the winner’s country music career.
The overall winner would receive prizes totalling $15,000, including a music video shot in Nashville, Tennessee; professional photos; a recording contract; $3500 prize money; and a year’s professional mentoring.
Mr Geary said he had been particularly pleased with the success of two innovations this year.
"We introduced a ‘New Country’ open section for the first time this year, which has proved very popular across all age groups. In addition, we ran the MLT Music Round Up at multiple venues on Friday night, operated by our naming sponsor, the Mataura Licensing Trust, which was a universal sellout."
Both elements were likely to return next year, he said.
With the country music dust finally settling, he, his committee and the event’s "dedicated" volunteer corps were now looking forward to a break before planning for next year’s event began.
"It’s gone pretty good. No major hiccups, and happy faces."
Intermediate overall winner was Molly Goodeve, of Cambridge; junior overall winner was Gracie Young, of Dunedin.
NZ Gold Guitars Awards 2018
Senior Finals Results
Highest Scoring Gore CMC Member Lana Stevens
Gospel Jaydin Shingleton, Westport
Country Rock Ryan Monaghan, Hamilton
NZ Song Arun O'Connor, Invercargill
Traditional Jaydin Shingleton, Westport
Instrumental Nick Brightwell, Auckland
Duet Leea & Braydon, Auckland
Vocal Group The Wanderers, Invercargill
Band Valley Bluegrass, Dunedin
New Country Arun O'Connor, Invercargill
Singer Songwriter Brayden Jeffrey, Auckland
Male Vocal Solo Arun O'Connor, Invercargill
Female Vocal Solo Jenna Harraway
NZ Gold Guitars Overall Runner Up Jaydin Shingleton, Westport
NZ Gold Guitars Overall Winner Arun O'Connor, Invercargill