Third day

       NASHVILLE, Tenn. (EP) - Rock band Third Day was the big winner of the 32nd annual Dove Awards, the annual awards program of the Gospel Music Association. Third Day took top honors in five categories, including Group of the Year and Artist of the Year. Nicole C. Mullen was just behind with four Dove Awards, including Songwriter of the Year.

       Awards went to a wide variety of acts, and that diversity was on display in the choices for on-stage performances during the ceremony. From Point of Grace's opening performance of their new single "Begin With Me," to the closing with Nicole C. Mullen's Song of the Year, "Redeemer," the two-hour show may have featured its most diverse line-up in its 32-year history.

       Hosted by Michael W. Smith, the awards show included performances by Yolanda Adams, Aaron Neville with Avalon, Plus One, The O.C. Supertones, Gaither Vocal Band, Donnie McClurkin, Jaci Velasquez and Mary Mary with Kirk Franklin. Presenters included music producer David Foster, Oklahoma congressman J.C. Watts, actress Cassidy Rae, country music legends Barbara Mandrell and the Oak Ridge Boys and the Peasall Sisters from "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

        "This was an amazing night for gospel music," said Frank Breeden, president of the Gospel Music Association (GMA) and executive producer of the Dove Awards. "I can't remember a more exciting show with so many stand-out performances, and with so many different artists being honored with Dove trophies. We've always been proud of our diversity; tonight we truly celebrated it."

       Steven Curtis Chapman won his 45th Dove in the Male Vocalist category, continuing his reign as the all-time Dove Award winner. Singer/songwriter Nichole Nordeman won her first Dove Award for Female Vocalist of the Year, and the New Artist of the Year prize went to Plus One, Christian music's answer to the Backstreet Boys.

       Third Day and its individual band members went home with a total of 15 statuettes. In addition to the Artist and Group honors, the band won Dove Awards for Praise & Worship Album for Offerings: A Worship Album, Rock Recorded Song for "Sky Falls Down," and Special Event Album for their participation on City On A Hill. Each member of the band, Mac Powell, Mark Lee, Tai Anderson, Brad Avery and David Carr, won individual Dove Awards for writing and production credits on the Praise & Worship Album. "It's remarkable and humbling to now receive so much attention for a project that we made to bring glory to God," said Powell.

       Third Day's wins marked the first time in two decades that a single act has gone home with both artist and group of the year honors. "Being from Atlanta, we sometimes feel distanced from the Nashville music base," said Lee. "To be received so well tonight by the industry is overwhelming."

       Other multiple Dove winners included Mary Mary, who won Doves for Urban Recorded Song, "Shackles (Praise You)," which is from their Urban Album of the Year, Thankful. Sisters Erica Atkins and Trecina Atkins, who make up Mary Mary, also won individual awards as songwriters for "Shackles (Praise You)."

       Michael W. Smith went home with three Doves. His This Is Your Time album, which he also produced, won for Pop/Contemporary Album. Smith's third award came for his part in creating Friends 4Ever, the winner of Youth/Children's Musical Dove.

       Bill Gaither's Gaither Vocal Band won Doves for Southern Gospel Recorded Song, "God Is Good All The Time," and Southern Gospel Album, I Do Believe. Gaither also won for producing the Long Form Video, "A Farewell Celebration" by the Cathedrals.

       A stirring moment came when the GMA honored Larry and Frances Jones, founders of GMA's official charity, Feed the Children, with the GMA Humanitarian Award. The Jones' were joined on stage by Maria Topalovich, a young Bosnian amputee who received prosthetics and renewed ability to walk from Feed the Children's charitable efforts.

       Founded in 1964, the 5,000-member Gospel Music Association produces the Dove Awards, which recognizes achievement in all genres of Gospel music.