The weather is heating up. Fan club parties are being announced. Travel plans are being finalized. Ah, yes…It’s CMA FEST TIME! Every year during the festival I can’t believe that its that time already, but once its over it always seems so far away. As each year comes and goes I feel like I always learn something new even though most things stay the same. Some lessons I learned the hard way and some I was fortunate enough to have someone lend a hand in helping make the week go by smoother, even if just a little bit. Whether you are a newbie or a returning veteran, there is always something new and exciting to add to your knowledge base, so I wanted to take some time and compile some tips that I have learned to help you out.
It can get really hot in Nashville, so be sure to stay hydrated when you are out walking around during the day going from show to show. Typically, there are hydration stations around lower broadway in the midst of all the tents that are set up in the street. You also have access to water fountains inside the convention center. Bring a reusable bottle with you – it will also save you a ton of money! A cute Swell bottle or Yeti cup are great options.
Pack Well, Pack Light
Pack things that are lightweight, and only pack what you need for the day. Most people don’t go back to their hotel and just go all day – if you are one of these people you will know or will learn it can be a struggle to carry around a heavy bag all day. Throw in a light snack (preferably one that won’t melt!), some battery chargers, your camera, your phone, a small wallet, a water bottle and of course tickets.
Another thing to note when it comes to your wallet – they can get heavy! I recommend a small wristlet or card holder to throw in some cash, your credit card, debit card, and id.
Keep in mind, the stadium will only allow clear-stadium-approved bags. Make it easier on yourself to not forget anything by only using your clear bag all week. Bags will be checked and some of the free outdoor stages also only allow clear bags.
Print your schedule
If you have followed my blog for a while now, you know I love some good organization, especially with a week like this one. Make a word doc or excel spreadsheet if you wish, of dates and times you want to see your favorite artists play. Keep in mind, things change and sometimes you won’t be able to see every artist or do everything. It takes some time to go from one stage to another during the day and sometimes you have to be at a stage early to claim a close spot.
I usually have a folder with me for the week that includes confirmation emails and info that may be needed (example: if I had won a meet and greet or fan club confirmation, tickets, etc.) and I also print out a schedule so I can remember what time and where I want to see my favorites play. I’ve even gone as far as making a note card for each day and I just throw them out after the day is done. Why paper? I don’t want to waste my data or phone battery. That’s really all it comes down to. With hundreds of thousands of people downtown all trying to stay connected with their social media, the service can be a bit slow and drain down your battery fairly quickly.
One of the best ways to stay in the know if you are anti-paper schedule is to download the CMA fest app.
Keep connected and powered up
Speaking of batteries being drained…I can’t stress this point enough. BRING PORTABLE BATTERY CHARGERS! Yes, you will find charging stations in the convention center and you will have access to plug-ins (if a restaurant will let you use them) and you can charge your phone that way, but sometimes its not the most convenient when you don’t have time to sit and wait at a charging station to wait. I recommend having two with you. It’s always good to have a back up, to be prepared and to be able to help save a friend who forgot to bring one. One of my favorite things to use is a battery charging case. I also carry an extra batter charger in addition to the case. Don’t forget to throw in a charging cable too! Can’t charge your phone with out it, sounds silly but I may or may not be speaking from experience on that.
Know your venues
There are a few places that get switched up that can cause some unwanted complications that you may not want. Please, please, PLEASE – Know the difference between the Grand Ole Opry and The Ryman. You can not walk from one of those venues to the other. Also, know the difference between the Crazy Horse and Wildhorse Saloon…. One will be filled with country line dancing and the other will have dancing….just probably not the dancing you are looking to experience.
Unfortunately, this really has happened. I met a very sweet family a couple years ago that confused the two venues. Luckily, they were able to laugh about it and it didn’t ruin their trip but at the time I’m sure it wasn’t as funny as it may be now.
Meet and greets
One of my favorite things about this festival is being able to meet some of my favorite artists. Some artist do a meet and greet during their fan club parties. If you are interested in fan club parties, keep checking your favorite artists official site to see if they are having one. If you would like to meet your favorite artist at the convention center you will have to enter to win passes.
Be sure to sign up for the fan access drawings BEFORE May 29, you can start submitting your picks on Tuesday, May 29 (2018) at 10am CST and you will have until Thursday, May 31 (2018) at 10am.
If you are aren’t lucky enough to be chosen to win, don’t get discouraged. There is still a chance you will be able to meet them. Some people at the convention center will be looking to trade or will have an extra pass (winners receive 2) and are willing to take you with them. There are also hopeful lines that you can line up in. Hopeful lines are great, but remember with bigger artists you will need to get to that line early but also know that there is no guarantee. Winners have a time frame that they can show up in between, if there is a gap in the line where they are waiting on more winners to show up, they will fill the line with “hopefuls” to keep the artists signing line moving constantly so that the artist can meet as many people as their time allows.
To get in a hopeful line you will have to walk around inside the convention center and look for the volunteers holding up signs that say “ARTIST XYZ Hopeful Line”.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING….
Have fun! You can’t take too many pictures, laugh too much, make too many new friends or have too much fun (ok, some might have a little TOO much fun), but enjoy your experience.
If you’ve never been to Nashville before…Welcome and prepare for an amazing week!