SHIPSHEWANA — When the County Academy of Music unveiled the names of the nominees for the awards at its upcoming annual County Academy of Music event, one name struck a local chord. The Blue Gate Performing Arts Center in Shipshewana has been nominated for the ACM’s ‘Theatre of the Year’ award.
The Blue Gate was one of five sites in the country to be nominated for the award. Other nominees include the American Music Theater, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the Andrew J. Brady ICON Music Theater, Cincinnati, Ohio, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida, and finally, the Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, Tennessee.
Ryan Riegsecker, president of Blue Gate Hospitality, the parent company of the Blue Gate Performing Arts Center, said he was simply “flabbergasted” when he learned Shipshewana’s venue had been nominated for the award.
“It’s amazing. To be in the same category with these other sites is amazing,” he said Thursday afternoon.
Riegsecker said the Blue Gate was nominated for the award by one of several agencies Performing Arts Center staff deal with when booking shows. Which agency named the Blue Gate, even Riegsecker doesn’t know.
The Blue Gate Performing Arts Center opened in 2020 and was only able to host two shows before the coronavirus pandemic shut it down. Since then, it’s come back stronger than ever, Riegsecker said, and the local venue now books and presents hundreds of shows and artists every year.
The 1,500-seat theater features a state-of-the-art lighting and sound system, and its design ensures that every seat is close to the stage.
Riegsecker admitted that he was sometimes even amazed at how successful the theater was in just two years.
“We started this in a small banquet hall, and it kind of grew and grew and grew,” he explained. “It’s amazing when you think about it. We’ll be doing over 300 shows this year.
Riegsecker said performers and audience members seem to enjoy coming to Shipshewana for a show.
“I’ve been told people like to come to our area because it’s rural, but we have some of the best facilities in the county. People just like to come here. I’ve got a lot of artists saying it reminds me of Branson 25 years ago – a small town, in the middle of America, just a cool place to visit. I think artists love to come and we know guests love to come because if they want they can spend a few days doing something else.
Each of the other theaters vying for the award is a well-established venue and each is well-known in the music industry. The Ryman Theater is one of County Music’s most important venues, launching the careers of some of County Music’s greatest legends. His stage was one of the Grand Ole Opry houses, and the Ryman Building is considered an important national treasure.
“When you look at these other nominees, they’re big players in the music industry,” Riegsecker said. “Ruth Eckerd Hall is huge. The Ryman, the American Music Theatre, the Brady, these are some of the theaters we’ve watched over the years and to be nominated alongside them is just amazing.
upset if the Blue Gate doesn’t win the prize.
“Not at all,” he added with a laugh. “I’m tickled pink just for being on the list.”
The Country Music Awards honor the biggest names in country music. This year, the 57th Academy of County Music Awards show will take place on March 7 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. The show will be hosted by Jimmie Allen and Gabby Barrett and county music superstar Dolly Parton.
Some of the most notable awards presented during the show include Artist of the Year, Female Artist of the Year, Duo of the Year, Group of the Year, Single of the Year, song of the year and album of the year.
The awards are voted on by members of the Academy of Country Music. Membership has increased by 12% over the past year, bringing the total membership of the Academy to over 4,600.