By Leah Jackson
NATCHITOCHES – The Academy of Country Music named a current Northwestern State University student and a 2015 NSU graduate as Volunteer Award winners for their contributions in making the 2017 ACM Awards and ACM Party for a Cause events successful. Hunter Horton, a senior from Benton, and Alex Oetken of Nashville, Tennessee, were among eight individuals recognized for dedication and service.
This year, the Academy had 88 volunteers from around the country take up ranks alongside ACM staff to host the 52nd ACM Awards and related events in Las Vegas. The awards were broadcast Sunday, April 2 on CBS. This was the third year in a row that students in NSU’s hospitality management and tourism (HMT) program volunteered with the ACM Awards.
HMT Professor Valerie Salter said the volunteer experiences exposes students to the logistics of a large event from planning, signage, marketing, branding, crowd control and security. Students were expected to be confident, professional and dependable.
“As a volunteer, I worked exclusively with the staff of the Academy of Country Music Awards to produce the Awards show but also events leading up to the awards show and charitable events for their philanthropic arm, Party for a Cause,” Horton said. “My specific duties were escorting artists during a ‘Radio Remote’ which was a high energy, fast paced interview scene of 60 radio stations that each gave 5 minute interviews. We were responsible for scheduling these interviews and escorting artists to each interview.”
Horton worked with artists Dan + Shay, Love and Theft and Keith Urban, the most nominated artist at the awards show, and served as an awards show rehearsal monitor, support staff for Party for a Cause at the House of Blues and golf cart driver for the red carpet in which he drove stars from the end of the red carpet to their talent entrance.
“Some highlights were definitely working with the big names on the radio remotes and also driving the golf carts for such talent as Carrie Underwood, Reba, Keith Urban and many more,” Horton said. “It was an experience that I’ll never forget and I’m so excited to be chosen for this honor.”
Returning for his second year as a volunteer Oetken worked at Virgil’s Friday rehearsal guitars on Saturday and red carpet drink bins on Sunday.
“Working the ACMs were completely different than my first year. The first year we were at the festival the whole time. This time we got to be all over Vegas and work all different areas,” Oetken said. “It was really cool to see how the rehearsals worked, as well as working the red carpet during the event.”
Oetken graduated in 2015 with a degree in HMT and a concentration in business administration. He moved to Nashville in January and works for Bruce Pittman, a Nashville wedding planner.
“I would like to thank the HMT program at NSU for giving me the connections to be able to volunteer for such a great organization. They have put some amazing opportunities in front of us,” Oetken said.
Information on award winners is available at acmcountry.com/volunteer-awards.
Information on NSU’s HMT program is available at hmt.nsula.edu.