If you’re a fan of country music at all, then CMA Fest should definitely be on your to-do list one year… if not every year. The festival is the ultimate time to see some, if not all, of your favorite country artists. Officially, it’s a four-day event that starts on Thursday and ends Sunday night, but there are events that take place all week long in Nashville. From the City of Hope celebrity softball game and Craig Campbell’s Celebrity corn hole challenge to the River Front stage and the nightly shows at Nissan Stadium, there’s all sorts of fun to be had throughout the week. The best part is, even if you don’t want to or can’t spend a ton of money, you can still go and have a good time with free shows or other cheap events. I’ve been to the festival about five times now, and haven’t put myself into debt any of the times I’ve gone, but I’ve still walked away with great experiences each time.
This year I only went for four, really three, days, and while I did less than I have in the past, I still enjoyed a lot of events, including meeting and seeing some of my favorite artists live. I also walked away with it being relatively cheap if you exclude hotel, food, gas, and parking.
I’m going to give you the run-down of my experience, and maybe it will entice you to go one year.
Fan Club Parties:
Every year the stars put on special fan club parties during the festival. If you’re a part of their fan club, then you can buy tickets (for most of them) for intimate shows and special goodies. I’ve been to Scotty McCreery’s and Love and Theft’s parties, and they really make for a special time to see your favorite.
This year, my friend and I only went to Love and Theft’s Thefthead (fanbase’s name). Stephen and Eric are some of my favorite guys/artists ever. Not only are they super talented, but they know how to treat their fans with appreciation and genuine love for them. While this party had a few hiccups and was different from the last two, it was still a good time. The guys sang a few songs, and they even brought American Young, Bucky Covington, and Joel Crouse up on stage to perform a few songs as well. They gave away prizes, sold merch, and had a meet and greet afterwards. No matter how many people are there, the guys really know how to show appreciation to each individual.
Chevy Riverfront Stage:
This is the stage where you can see a majority of your favorite artists hit the stage and perform. The line-up this year included the likes of Cam, Canaan Smith, Charles Esten, Jake Owen, Jana Kramer, Jon Pardi, Kellie Pickler, Love and Theft, Maddie & Tae, Marren Morris, Michael Ray, Scotty McCreery, Thompson Square, Tyler Farr, and many others.
The best part? It’s completely free! The only real downside is the heat… especially when you’re on the river directly under the sun.
Saturday (6/11/16) we had plans to spend the day at the stage to see some of some of our favorites that are mentioned above. We got there early in order to get a good spot, and we made it through the first act (I can’t remember who it was) and Love and Theft who were second. By the time they finished though, we were dying from the heat and ended up leaving.
Side Note: We came back later for another show (different, but still out in the sun), but we were still pretty beat from earlier in the day. After waiting at least 45 minutes for them to start late, we left after the first song.
I heard that at least 1,000 people sought medical help due to the heat. So, if you do go, be sure to stay hydrated and not overdo it.
Fan Fair X Hall:
This is your ultimate spot to actually meet a lot of your favorite artists. Some of the bigger names require you to win tickets during a drawing (there’s also hopeful lines for those who don’t win), but a majority of them are free, with the exception of buying your ticket into the hall (about $25 for 4 days). Once inside, you can mingle and meet a lot of up and coming singer/songwriters and more well-known singers, shop, grab some food, and see performances on some of the stages that are set up.
Who I saw/met: Charles Esten, Lauren Alaina, Maddie & Tae, Granger Smith, Trent Harmon, the Property Brothers, Laura Wright and Robert Palmer Watkins from General Hospital.
But there are a slew of others that are just too many to name that are there and we didn’t get a chance to meet.
Other things to do:
Nightly Nissan Stadium shows (requires expensive tickets/four day passes), free stages set up in various areas, fan alley along Broadway, City of Hope Celebrity Softball Game, Craig Campbell’s Celebrity Corn hole challenge, and plenty of other various activities.
This is just a taste of everything to do during CMA Fest. There’s a million more details and events are sure to grab your attention. The festival is a guaranteed good time so long as you keep hydrated. So, if you’re a fan of country music, be sure to add it to your bucket list.
The festival takes place within the first few weeks of every June in Nashville, TN.
Featured Image credit: MusicCityNashville.net