Steve Harvey hopes for a bigger, better Neighborhood Awards

By Rodney Ho for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Last year, comedian Steve Harvey moved his community-focused Neighborhood Awards from Las Vegas to Atlanta, citing the fact more of his fans are based in the Southeast.

By his estimation, the first Atlanta-based weekend was a rousing success, drawing more than 60,000 people to a three-day expo, multiple comedy shows, two late-night parties featuring the likes of Bell Biv Devoe and the O’Jays and a nearly sold-out awards show at Philips Arena. He quickly committed to another year in Atlanta.

Rushion McDonald, his manager and right-hand man, said they are hoping this 13th annual awards weekend will hit 100,000 in total attendees this weekend. He said it is far cheaper to hold the events here versus Vegas. “Vegas is designed for big conventions, not this,” he said. “We couldn’t charge $20 for the expo there.”

Several events are already sold out, including Nephew Tommy’s comedy shows, the Freedom Friday party with R&B singers Ne-Yo and Erykah Badu, and the Saturday night VIP after-party featuring classic hip-hop artists Doug E. Fresh and Salt-N-Pepa. There are only 300-level seats left for the Philips awards show, which will feature musical acts Usher and Tyrese.

At the awards show, Harvey will have Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and celebrities such as “Real Housewives of Atlanta” cast member Kandi Burruss announce winners in 12 categories, ranging from best beauty salon to best barbecue place to best high school. Earlier this year, Harvey collected votes from fans of his syndicated talk show heard in 58 markets nationwide including Atlanta’s Majic 107.5/97.5.

Atlanta has nominees in four of the categories: best church choir (Victory for the World Choir from Stone Mountain), best soul food (King’s Southern Delight, also in Stone Mountain), best church (the Harvest Tabernacle Church in Lithonia) and best community leader (James Jones, who runs the nonprofit organization Simply United Together out of Conyers, for the second year in a row).

Harvey, with decades of stand-up comedy experience, a hit sitcom and multiple best-selling relationship books, continues to build his national profile. His 3-year-old TV talk show, seen locally on Fox 5, has been a huge hit in syndication. His incarnation of “Family Feud,” shot locally in Atlanta, has become a game-show staple. And a spinoff celebrity version of “Feud” pulled in big numbers for ABC earlier this summer.