NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Saturday was a big night in Harlem as the annual Soul Train Awards took place at the Apollo Theater for the first time, and the red carpet was overflowing with celebrities for the occasion.

As CBS2’s Elise Finch reports, the venue was chosen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the TV show “Soul Train.”

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The Soul Train Awards pay tribute to the show and the musicians who keep that soulful legacy alive.

“What better place to celebrate 50 years of soul, 50 years of legends, 50 years of icons, 50 years of magical moments,” DJ Cassidy said.

The 2021 Soul Train Awards link an iconic television show with a legendary New York theater, and plenty of celebrities were happy to celebrate that pairing.

“Understanding what ‘Soul Train’ has done for our culture and understanding what the Apollo has done for our culture, the opportunities that they’ve opened for all of us, the, the, ah, it just makes sense,” actor and singer Mack Wilds said.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 20: Ashanti attends The “2021 Soul Train Awards” Presented By BET at The Apollo Theater on November 20, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Wilds, Fat Joe and Ja Rule hit the red carpet. So did singers El DeBarge, Lucky Day, Brooklyn native Maxwell — who’s receiving the Living Legend Awards — and Queens native Ashanti, who’s being honored with the Lady of Soul Award.

“It’s such an amazing feeling to be home in New York, being celebrated and being surrounded by so much love and my peers, and you know, there’s so much history with Soul Train, especially Lady of Soul, so I’m very, very grateful,” Ashanti said.

“I’m very, very happy that she’s getting her flowers here at Soul Train,” Ja Rule said.

“I’m proud of BET and Soul Train for acknowledging her because she’s been a beautiful ambassador to hip-hop and R&B,” Fat Joe said.

Everyone seems to have fond memories about the TV show that was affectionately called “the hippest trip on the planet.”

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Singer El DeBarge performed on the show many times.

“So much of our history is in ‘Soul Train.’ Don Cornelius put a lot of us in the game and brought us back again and again,” he said.

Creator and host Don Cornelius put the “Soul Train” on its track for the first time in October of 1971. The show became known for its star-packed performances and a nightclub vibe, thanks to the Soul Train dancers and the iconic Soul Train line where dancers got to showcase their best moves.

“It was the one thing that we had growing up that we could see artists that looked like us, that had our moves, we learned the latest dances … but it really fed our culture and it’s all about the culture,” actress Wendy Raquel Robinson said.

The Soul Train Awards is produced by and airs on BET.

Earlier this week, Finch had a chance to speak with Connie Orlando, the network’s executive vice president in charge of specials. She talked about why they continue to honor “Soul Train” even though the show is no longer in production.

“When Don Cornelius created that … he was a trailblazer. He knocked down doors. He gave opportunity. He was about celebrating and showcasing artists that didn’t get that opportunity other places. And I think that that’s always important to carry on, because I think that still exists,” Orlando said.

“‘Soul Train’ started it all, so it’s only right that we keep it going,” Fat Joe said.

This year’s show at the Apollo Theater has a full, live audience, which was not possible in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Just like last year, though, Queens native Tichina Arnold, from the CBS show “The Neighborhood,” was back to co-host.

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You can watch the ceremony when it airs Sunday, Nov. 28, at 8 p.m. on BET.

Elise Finch