Music-industry stalwarts like The Weeknd, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Justin Bieber won awards at Saturday's Juno Gala pre-show in Calgary, but the field was mostly first-time nominees.

Artist of the Year went to Abel Tesfaye, who performs as The Weeknd. He was also tapped for the Songwriter of the Year award amid tough competition, including Sainte-Marie and Tobias Jesso Jr., who has written hit songs for Adele and Sia.

The Weeknd also took R&B/Soul Recording of the Year with Beauty Behind the Madness.

Rosalie Trombley, considered an influential radio musical director, was awarded the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award. Canadian music legend Burton Cummings spoke of his friend, saying she has supported Canadian musicians like no other. 

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Burton Cummings, who was inducted in the Canadian Hall of Fame for his solo work, on the green carpet at the Junos Gala Dinner and Awards. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

"Without her I would not be standing here talking to you," Cummings said.

Saturday's presentation was an award dinner preceding the main Juno Awards on Sunday.

Allan Reid, CEO of the awards, said Calgary has been a great host.

"We have a great life because of music," Reid said, kicking off the event. "This city is absolutely on fire. All the clubs are packed."

He said this year is a focus on fresh new talent with 88 nominees of the 178 total being first-timers.

But it was also about recognizing musicians that made a social difference.

Tom Cochrane presented Arcade Fire with the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award.

"They don't create music in a vacuum," Cochrane said.

"They are keen observers of the human condition," he said of the group's work in Haiti.

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Regine Chassagne of the band Arcade Fire holds the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award trophy during Saturday's event. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Sainte-Marie took the second award of the evening, Contemporary Roots Album of the Year, for Power in the Blood, and thanked her producers and record company.

She also grabbed Aboriginal Album of the Year later in the evening.

"Music is very diverse in our community. We have got rockers, we have country music, tradition music, people who write love songs," Sainte-Marie said. "Thank you for recognizing the diversity within our cultures."

Blues Album of the Year went to Harrison Kennedy's This Is From Here.

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Harrison Kennedy holds his Juno award for Blues Album of the Year. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

"This is the first time I have won something in my country of Canada," Kennedy shared.

"I didn't expect to win this thing," he said, acknowledging the power of public funding for the arts.

Adele took International Album of the Year with 25, beating out Hozier, Meghan Trainor, One Direction and Vance Joy.

Pop Album of the Year was handed out to Justin Bieber's Purpose against stiff competition from Hedley, Shawn Mendes and Walk off the Earth.

Rock Album of the Year was taken by Death From Above 1979's The Physical World.

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Death From Above 1979 won the Rock Album of the Year Juno for The Physical World. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

"This is about as surreal as it gets," Sebastien Grainger said in accepting the award.

A total of 35 awards were handed out Saturday, in advance of the main event Sunday.

Dear Rouge took Breakthrough Group of the Year, Alternative Album of the Year went to Braids' Deep in the Iris and the award for Adult Alternative Album of the Year went to Whitehorse's Leave No Bridge Unburned.

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Whitehorse with their Juno for Adult Alternative Album of the Year. They are just one of three married couples bringing home some hardware. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

In the album category, Jazz Album of the Year: Group went to Allison Au Quartet's Forest Grove. Francophone Album of the Year was snapped up by Jean Leloup's A Paradis City, while Instrumental Album of the Year went to Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld's Never Were the Way She Was. Children's Album of Year was taken by the Swinging Belles' More Sheep, Less Sleep.

Drake's If You're Reading This It's Too Late was tapped for Rap Recording of the Year, and Dance Recording of the Year went to Keys N Krates' Save Me ft. Katy B.

A complete list of Saturday's winners can be found here.

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The Fortunate Ones perform at the Juno pre-show gala in Calgary on Saturday. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

CBC News will continue to bring you the latest music and celebrity news, photos and videos from Juno Awards Week in Calgary in our live blog.

With files from CBC's Rachel Maclean and The Canadian Press