ATLANTA - Steve Harvey thought that moving his annual Neighborhood Awards from Las Vegas to Atlanta would be more economically feasible for his loyal radio listeners to attend.
"Probably 90 percent of my radio listeners are east of the Mississippi River," the actor and comedian said. "Vegas was great to us. But I thought if we moved this to a hot city like Atlanta, economically we could save people a lot of money."
Harvey is hosting the 12th annual national convention in Atlanta for the first time. The four-day event will be held at Philips Arena and the Georgia World Congress Center, kicking off today.
The Neighborhood Awards, which recognizes small-town businesspeople, is expected to draw about 150,000 attendees.
Harvey called the cross-country move logical, because 2.1 million listeners of his "Steve Harvey Morning Show" are within a seven-hour drive radius from Atlanta.
Along with a shorter commute, ticket prices are being reduced by half compared to last year's cost of admission.
"We gave the award show back to the people," said Rushion McDonald, who created the awards with Harvey. The event originated in Los Angeles under the name Hoodie Awards, in 2001, and spent seven years in Las Vegas, bringing out celebs including Tyler Perry, Stevie Wonder and Jennifer Hudson.
But the primary initiative behind the awards is to honor people and businesses that uplift their neighborhoods. The fan-nominated awards offer 12 categories including best church, beauty salon, barbecue restaurant, community leader, high school, barbershop and church choir.
This year's performers include Robin Thicke, Anthony Hamilton, Chrisette Michele, Tamela Mann, India.Arie, Johnny Gill and the Ray Chew Band. The convention also will have several seminars featuring the Rev. Al Sharpton, Kandi Burruss and Stephen A. Smith.
"This is like an unpretentious Grammy Awards," Hamilton said. "I'm proud to be a part of an awards that uplifts everyday, hardworking people. I love coming here to perform and see others do the same."
Harvey, who started from humble beginnings and launched a successful career in entertainment, also wants regular folks to experience the limelight of the red carpet before the awards, which takes place Saturday night.
"This is to give the common man and business owner a round of applause," Harvey said. "I've been walking down red carpets for so many years, getting awards. I've been very fortunate. I think recognizing the common man for their hard work is a great thing."
Moving forward, Harvey and McDonald want to expand the brand of the awards. That's why they changed the name from Hoodie to Neighborhood Awards for last year's event.
"It's just so hard to explain Hoodie," he said. "It's a lot easier to explain Neighborhood Awards. We're still dealing with general marketing dollars. We had to make it more understandable."
About 30 radio stations across the country will broadcast the show live starting today. For the first time, the show will be streamed on Harvey's website or the free Neighborhood Awards app. Ultimately, the hope is to have the awards televised in the near future.