And now for something completely different.

Never before in its 42-year history has the Dove Award ceremony left the friendly confines of the state of Tennessee. With the move to Atlanta, everything about this year’s Doves will be met with a mix of excitement and anxiety. Today’s press conference to announce the nominees was no exception.

Held in the historic Grand Salon of the Fox Theatre on (where else?) Peachtree Street, the announcement ceremony was an early indicator of what things will be like in the new city and venue. The room full of local and national media surely allayed concerns.

I spoke with Gospel Music Association President Ed Leonard about the move to Atlanta, and learned locations are not planned years in advance. “We decide on the location of the Dove Awards after the prior Dove Awards. There was a board meeting that occurred in early summer of last year when all the options were discussed. We looked at Nashville, obviously, but also Atlanta, Orlando, Dallas. Those are great Christian music cities too. We settled on Atlanta because it’s such a great city for music and Gospel music in particular. A lot of our artists live here, GMC is headquartered here. Everything just fell in line. We couldn’t ask for a better venue.”

The GMA certainly views this year as a bit of an experiment, and Leonard says so far, so good. Regarding next year, he said, “We’ll see how this goes. Right now, ticket sales are going very well, and we’re expecting a sellout. The Fox is a beautiful venue, almost cathedral-esque. The pre-show will be in the Egyptian Ballroom in this intimate setting, and other events will be going on at hotels around the theater. We’re so happy to be here.”

Here are some pictures of the nominations announcement.

So this is what all the fuss is about!

Here’s Leonard opening the ceremony:

Next, several artists announced the nominees.

Third Day took turns at the mic, lamenting that they weren’t nominated in the Rap category like Lecrae:

All the while, I was in awe of Lecrae’s shoes:

Mandisa and Francesca also announced nominees.

Finally, the gathered media had one last photo opp before sitting down to write their opinions on the list of nominees.

Let the debates begin!