This is a brief history of the Association, which began in 1989, its purpose and accomplishments.
Back in the 1960's Grace Kozak, a local well known performer and promoter, started using the term "The Great Northern Opry" in her music shows, but she did not register that name.
The organization that gave birth to the country music effort in Sault Ste. Marie, was the original Country Club and was created by the efforts of Al Mooney, George Pinder and Carol and Dave Patterson in 1989. From that, The Sault Ste. Marie and District Country Music Hall of Fame was formed back in 1991, by those same founders, with Don Ramsay as the first inductee.
The first location for The Sault Ste. Marie and District Country Music Hall of Fame was located in the lobby of The Ramada Inn, now known as the Quattro Hotel & Conference Centre. The Ramada had display cases in the lobby which were purchased from the hotel owner, Tony Ruscio, with the profits from the 1991 Awards Show. Over the years the Hall of Fame displays were moved to a couple of different mall locations and most recently at the Riuniti Banquet Hall in Sault Ste. Marie. As of April 2012, the displays were put in storage as the Association seeks an affordable permanent location.
The Great Northern Opry, the term used by Grace Kozak, was formally registered in 1993 by Carol and Dave Patterson - partly to honour Grace's efforts. Local shows and dances started using that name to replace the "Country Club Show and Dance"
By 1999 it became evident that in order to survive, changes would have to be made or the efforts of the past ten years would have to come to an end. The Country Club had lasted for a decade with 13 Inductees in The Sault Ste. Marie and District Country Music Hall of Fame and 15 inductees in The Great Northern Opry. The financial obligations increased, so Carol and Dave discussed it, and decided to keep going, but with a slightly different approach. They decided to expand and make the organization more regional to take in all of Northern Ontario.
In 2000, the original Country Club was replaced by The Northern Ontario Country Music Association (NOCMA) and the Sault Ste. Marie and District Country Music Hall of Fame was replaced by The Northern Ontario Country Music Hall of Fame with Carol & Dave Patterson, as founders registering both the new names. The Great Northern Opry, registered by the Patterson's in 1993 remained intact, but now with country talent being inducted from across Northern Ontario. Unfortunately though, even with the changes, the red ink kept flowing.
Over the next decade, the Pattersons received help with the organization from many of the inductees. These included Scott Infanti, Jack Bringleson, John McClenaghan, Mike Case, Nick Porco, Bill Haight, Rob Wagner, George Wright and many more. Tom Stephenson has also helped with some photography/media work, and creation and maintenance of this website and our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/northerncountry.
With the expansion to all of Northern Ontario there also came a need for District Representatives. Over the years the District Reps have served to help immensely with the organizing work. The Association’s current District Reps are:
- Donna Graham - Cochrane & Temiskaming Districts
- Ben & Crystal Lentir - Manitoulin District
- Kevin & Joanne Russell - Sudbury District
- Rob and Allison Wagner - Algoma District
- Frank & Cheryl Robbins - Nipissing & Parry Sound Districts
- Dave Patterson – N.O.C.M.A. head office in Sault Ste. Marie
Each year the NOCMA inducts Northern Ontario Country Music Talent into The Great Northern Opry, and The Northern Ontario Country Music Hall of Fame.. The ceremonies are held at the Annual Northern Ontario Country Music Awards Weekend, held during the first weekend in November every year at the Quattro Hotel and Conference Centre in Sault Ste. Marie. Inductees are determined not by their commercial success, but rather the NOCMA has a qualifying system and the choices are made by the District Reps. This puts a Huge pressure on the Association’s Reps, as they have to seek out District talent worthy of being inducted, organize a Celebration Show and Dance event for each of these inductees, and also organize a bus to bring supporters to the Annual Northern Ontario Country Music Awards Weekend. Members of the public can also recommend musicians to the Reps for consideration for induction into either the Great Northern Opry or the Northern Ontario Country Music Hall of Fame.
Over the last few years the people attending the Annual Awards Weekend have completely filled the Quattro Hotel. There have been situations where more rooms have had to be booked for attendees at other hotels too. People arrive from across North Eastern Ontario via six or more filled highway motor coaches. Over 90% of the attendees at the event are from outside the Sault Ste. Marie area. This is a testament to the dedication and effort put forth by the Association’s District Representatives. This is a relatively large local event in Sault Ste. Marie and the Association needs to see more local representation, support, and attendance at the event from the people in Sault Ste. Marie and area.
Local Sault Ste. Marie musician and businessman Mike Case, who lost a battle with cancer in April 2015, supported the NOCMA for years, then took over representation of the Algoma District. Mike became more involved and organized many Great Northern Opry Shows. This helped bring in some money to support the Association but even then, The Annual Northern Ontario Country Music Awards were still losing money. In 2010, a meeting was held in Espanola with the representatives from across Northern Ontario to discuss a solution to make the Awards Shows profitable, or at least to have them break even. The decision was made to hold Great Northern Opry inductee Celebrations in each District to raise the funds to cover inductee costs. This was a positive move; 2011 was a better year for the NOCMA. The Association ended up in the black in 2012 for the first time since 1991. The 2013 show was also positive. The 2014 Awards Weekend had a slight loss, partly due to an expanded marketing effort that didn't prove fruitful. With some changes and further growth, the Association saw another slightly positive result in 2015 2016 and 2017. Our last three Awards Shows were sold out events. Mike's band "White Stallion" continues on after Mike's passing and backs up all inductees at our Annual Awards Show, we believe it is a nice tribute to Mike.
The Sault Ste. Marie Ontario based organization has the same country music structure as the country music organization based in Nashville Tennessee and exists to recognize and promote Northern Ontario Country Music Talent. Nashville has The CMA, The Country Music Hall of Fame and The Grande Ole Opry.
In comparison, Northern Ontario has the N.O.C.M.A, The Northern Ontario Country Music Hall of Fame and The Great Northern Opry. As of November of 2017 there are 125 Inductees in The Great Northern Opry and 47 Inductees in The Northern Ontario Country Music Hall of Fame. The major difference between the NOCMA and other larger Country Music Organizations is that the NOMA has many inductees that, despite their great talents, have not chosen a commercial music career, preferring to stay home, raise family, and maintain 'regular' jobs and employment. The Northern Ontario Country Music Association has created recognition for a category of talent across Northern Ontario that is often forgotten.
Besides inducting talented musicians into the Great Northern Opry, and the Northern Ontario Country Music Hall of Fame each year, the NOCMA has also presented other awards. These include the Barb Arnill Award, and The Bill Haight Award. On September 30th , 2013, Carol Patterson passed away and in her honour there is also now the Carol Patterson NOCMA Memorial Award that is presented. During the awards weekend of 2014 the first recipients of this award were announced as Mike Caseand Mike Dinelle for their hard work and Special assistance they have provided to the organization over the years. In 2015 the recipient was Mike Lance for his work in setting up the Association's Mobile Display. In 2016 awards were handed out to Glen & Beth McDougall, Yvan and Linda Nadeau, and Frank and Cheryl Robbins for their long term dedication and work as district representatives. The 2017 awards recipients were Eugene and Marg Williams.
Another effort of the NOCMA that is often overlooked is its record label. To date we have four CD’s that have all been branded with the NOCMA label. These CD's are all available through our storefront on this website, or by contacting us directly.
We Need a Home and Your Support:
The Personal financial investment that has been made in The Northern Ontario Country Music Association and its projects over the last 25 years should indicate to anyone that this organization will be around for many years to come, but we need your support! Northern Ontario has a wealth of country music talent that has yet to be recognized. Recognition of these musicians is the primary goal of the NOCMA. You can show your support quite simply by attending local events across Northern Ontario. If you are a lover of Country Music you’ll love the NOCMA shows and awards ceremonies, there is no doubt about it!
As of April 2012, the Northern Ontario Country Music Hall of Fame displays were in storage. In 2015 we purchased a cargo trailer to make the NOCMA displays mobile. This trailer allows us to set up the displays at events. We are still looking for a more permanent home for these displays.
The NOCMA has ongoing shows through the year in various locations in Northern Ontario. A schedule of upcoming events can be found on this page to the right or in our News section. Interested persons can also sign up on this website to become “members” of the Association. There is no cost and you do not need to be a musician to join. Members will receive occasional newsletters and notices from the Association by e-mail.
Feel Free to contact any of our district reps listed above if you would like to get involved.
Are You a Country Musician?
Be sure to register as a member of our organization, it's free. We have ongoing shows through the year in various locations. Please take a look at our news and events page for more information on upcoming shows. Contact Us if you are interested in being a Guest on a Great Northern Opry Show & Dance coming to a Northern Ontario town near you.