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Sound of silence . . . Gore mayor Tracy Hicks says Queen's Birthday weekend in Gore will have a different look this year without the MLT New Zealand Gold Guitars being held in the town due to the event being cancelled because of the Covid-19 threat. PHOTO:SANDY EGGLESTON

A virus in 2020 has put paid to an event an arsonist was unable to stop in 2004.

Sixteen years ago, a month before the Gold Guitar Awards were due to be held, the Gore Country Music Centre was destroyed by fire, and awards shifted to a new venue.

However, as part of the ongoing response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards and the inaugural Tussock Country Music Festival, which the awards are now part of, have been cancelled for 2020.

The nine-day event was being organised by the New Zealand Country Music Festival Trust.

Trust chairman Jeff Rea said it was very disappointed the festival could no longer go ahead.

“The hardworking team behind Tussock Country are gutted to have to cancel this fantastic, new festival event,” Mr Rea said.

“We’ve had enormous support for all of the 32 events we had planned.

“The way organisers of individual events have come together to create the festival has been outstanding.”

The committee understood how disappointing cancelling the event would be but recognised the importance of keeping people safe.

“We have to be responsible and do the right thing.”

Tussock Country Music Festival will now be held from May 29 to June 6, 2021.

MLT NZ Gold Guitar Awards committee chairman Philip Geary said competitors, judges, band members, volunteers, event organisers and audience members would be very disappointed.

”However we need to ensure the health of all is paramount in our decisions,” Mr Geary said.

“We need to follow government guidelines for events and try to protect and prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

Last year 736 entries had been received for the awards.

This year’s entries were to close on April 3 and the numbers received so far were on a par to the same time last year, he said.

The awards would now be held from June 4 to 6, 2021.

Gore District mayor Tracy Hicks said he believed the decisions that have been made were the right ones.

“They are focused on safety of individuals and that’s always got to be the focus,” Mr Hicks said.

Queen’s Birthday Weekend would be celebrated differently this year in Gore, he said.

“[It’s] the first time for 40-odd years that it hasn’t been focused around the traditional country music events.”

Entertainer Patsy Riggir won the first Gold Guitar Award in 1974.

Ms Riggir said many people would be affected by the cancellation of the event.

“The Gore town itself, the restaurants, the cafes, the motels, the people who would have been coming in, the contestants – it’s wide reaching,” she said.

Mataura Licensing Trust chairman Horace McAuley said the cancellation would be widely felt.

“To lose a major event will have a significant impact across all sectors of the community including hospitality,” Mr McAuley said.

All tickets purchased for the awards and festival events through iTicket would be refunded.