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Academy of Country Music Begins Picking Winners for 35th Annual "Hat" Awards
For most of February, the country music industry will vote for final nominees for the Academy of Country Music's 35th annual "Hat" Awards, to be presented May 3 at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.

The ACM announced its first-round slate of candidates Monday. Voting members will receive their ballots after the ACM mails them Feb. 7. Early contenders for trophies are submitted by the Academy's awards selection committee and approved by its board of directors. First-round voting ends Feb. 25.

ACM officials will name final nominees March 1 at the annual Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, immediately prior to a concert performance by Alan Jackson. Final ballots will be mailed to voting members on March 17.

First-round nominees for entertainer of the year include past winners Alabama, Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn, Reba McEntire and George Strait. Also in the running are the Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, Jackson, Tim McGraw, LeAnn Rimes, Sawyer Brown and Shania Twain.

McGraw is the only artist with two entries up for single record of the year: "Please Remember Me" and "Something Like That." Both songs also are in the running for song of the year.

ACM voters are not bashful about quickly embracing new talent. Among the seven nominees for top new female vocalist, three -- Shannon Brown, Rebecca Lynn Howard and Shana Petrone -- have yet to release an album on a major label. Nominees in all categories are chosen based on factors such as recording and live performance during the past year.

Winners of the 35th annual "Hat" Awards will be announced during a three-hour, prime-time special on CBS TV, produced by dick clark productions.

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