CMA Fest

Fans sing along with performers at the Riverfront Stage at the 2019 CMA Festival in Nashville. 

Country music fans woke up on the first day of the 48th CMA Fest with gray clouds looming above Nashville.

Although rain was projected in the forecast for the entire country festival weekend, the few sprinkled drops in the morning didn’t deter the crowds that still swarmed the specially blocked off downtown streets, jamming into Riverfront stage and meandering around at the Xfinity Fan Fair in the Music City Center.

All around, country music vibrated through the air as singer after singer took on the different stages.

Starting the festival at the Riverfront stage, Billy Currington, best known for “Must be Doin’ Somethin’ Right” and “People Are Crazy,” melted the crowd’s hearts when he brought onto stage a little girl to help sing a cover of WALK THE MOON’s “Shut up and Dance.”

By 11, the Riverfront Stage was packed with fans reclining on blankets, sitting on jackets to avoid the wet grass and standing close together for Lee Brice’s half hour performance including his song “Drinking Class.”

Runaway June made an appearance on the Riverfront stage after Brice. Naomi Cooke, Hannah Mulholland and Jennifer Wayne, who became the first all-female trio in over a decade to have their song, “Lipstick” score a Top 25 hit, inspired the crowd with their not-yet-released song, “Trouble with This Town.” The set wouldn’t have been complete without “Buy My Own Drink,” and the trio did not disappoint.

Throughout the day, music artists made surprise pop-up appearances in different locations. Clare Dunn, country singer from southeast Colorado, was one of the musicians to surprise fans with a performance at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“She just kind of popped in, did a couple songs, a meet and greet,” CMA Fest attendee from Wisconsin Adrianna Benavides said. “She is so sweet and so talented.”

“I’ve seen and met her a few times back in Milwaukee,” Benavides’ friend Victoria Pavlic added. “She is the most genuine, amazing character.”

The Xfinity Fan Fair offered patrons a variety of activities including shopping for cowboy boots and hats, opportunities to win free prizes and close-ups to artists.

Runaway June hosted their meet and greet, and then talked about their experience "Off the Road" at the Close Up stage.

Brandon Lancaster, Chandler Baldwin, Jared Hampton, Tripp Howell and Eric Steedly of the band LANCO also spoke on the Close Up stage about their time living on the road. The members described living on the road as, "it's like a traveling fraternity house."

One of the artists to perform at the Spotlight stage was Terra Bella, the husband and wife duo of Joseph and Martina. The duo ended their set with "Pink Flamingo," before heading behind the area to take photos with fans.

In between the Spotlight Stage and the Close Up stage, booths with different merchandise were set up for fans to shop at. Some of the items that fans could purchase included leather bags from Silver Plum, personalized, handmade flower headbands at Taylor'd Crowns, bohemian style clothing from Boho City, pet accessories from Earthwise and wine slushies and frozen flavored cocktails at Nectar of the Vine.

An auction booth was also set up where fans could bid on special items, most of them signed by known artists. Several signed guitars were up for auction with signatures from Kane Brown, Montgomery Gentry and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kelly Clarkson, Chris Stapleton and Michael Ray.

Between listening to live music at the stages, meeting different celebrities at their booths at the Xfinity Fan Fair and purchasing CMA Fest merchandise, food trucks were lined outside the Music City Center offering a variety of foods from sweet to savory to even cheesy.

By 5 p.m. most performances and the Xfinity Fan Fair ended, giving fans an hour and a half before the gates opened at Nissan Stadium at 6:30 p.m. allowing entrance to hear the main singers of the day.

However, the rain finally started, dampening the air. Patrons dawned rain jackets and ponchos as they crossed the pedestrian bridge toward Nissan Stadium.

Stay tuned for more CMA Festival coverage by Staff Writer Gabriela Szymanowska and Staff Photographer Connor Morss. 

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