It’s hard to believe I have been attending CMA Fest for almost TEN YEARS! Each year seems to take forever to get the next year’s events and then when it is finally time it seems as though it came too fast. The festival seems to go by faster and faster and when I try to reflect on all the memories that have been made I find myself not only wondering where the week went but how the next year can be topped.

CMA Fest usually starts on Tuesday of the festival week, some people have festivities beginning on the Sunday before the festival. However, things really kick off with the CMT Awards that are on Wednesday.

The CMT Awards are one of my favorite events to attend as a part of CMA Fest week. This year I lucked out with an amazing spot in the pit – front and center of the main performance stage. The highlights of the night for me were easily Carrie Underwood and THE BACK. STREET. BOYS!!!! My 12-year-old self had the time of her life. I was never able to see them while they toured during their prime years and here I was seeing them from 5-feet away! I was able to share this moment with old and a few new friends that were made throughout the day that was spent spending hours and hours in the hot sun in a general admission pit line so that we could maybe, just maybe get a good spot. Not only did they cut the line off after our group, we had one of the best “seats” in the house.

CMA Fest runs Thursday through Sunday with numerous stages scattered throughout downtown Nashville. From 10am to midnight, from free outdoor stages to the nightly festival shows at Nissan stadium there is always something going on and an artist to see. I love that this festival connects country musics greatest fans from all over the world and sometimes you will discover a new artist or two that you fall in love with. One of my favorite stages to attend during the day is the HGTV Lodge. You have to win your way in to this stage, sometimes you can get lucky and attend with a stranger (and make a new friend) and go as their plus one. This year I was fortunate enough to see three of my favorites at the Lodge: Lauren Alaina, Trisha Yearwood and Maddie & Tae.

Not only does CMA Fest give fans opportunities to see their favorite artists but to MEET their favorite artists! Inside the Music City Center is the Fan Fair X exhibit hall that features vendors, freebies, shopping and a couple smaller stages – oh and it’s air conditioned! CMA Fest week can get pretty hot so its always good to have somewhere to go to take in festivities out of the heat or sometimes the rain. Fan Fair X is also the home of almost all of the meet and greets that happen throughout the festival. There are some artists that host free meet and greets, some you will have to win tickets for. However, even those artist that have ticketed meet and greets, there are hopeful lines that you can line up and if the artist has a gap in line while they are waiting for ticket winners, or if they have more time available in their schedule they will pull fans from the hopeful lines. This year, I didn’t win any meet and greet’s but thanks to the hopeful line opportunity I was able to meet AJ McClean from the Backstreet Boys as well as Lauren Alaina and Hayley Orrantia.

Each night of the festival is closed out at Nissan Stadium with various artists throughout the 4-day event. This year fans were able to see artists like Jake Owen, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Carly Pearce, Carrie Underwood, Old Dominion, Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini and more. Fans were also treated to surprise performances from artists like Sam Hunt, Bebe Rexha, Lennon and Maisy, Chris Carmack, Jonathan Jackson, and my favorite: The Backstreet Boys!

As if there isn’t enough going on already one of the highlights for most fans throughout the week are fan parties that are held by artists for their fans. Fan parties are held at various venues around Nashville and give fans a chance to see their favorite artist by themselves in a more intimate type setting. Some artists will give fans some swag bag (Thanks, Lauren for the new L4L Shoes!) and some will host meet and greets after playing a few songs. Fan parties typically are available by buying a ticket and some are free if you enter via their social media, fan club or website. Each one is different. I attended both Lauren Alaina and Carrie Underwood’s fan parties this year. This year was the first fan party that Lauren has hosted and Carrie is going on her tenth.

Although this week can be very exhausting, it always proves itself as one of my favorite weeks of the year. I have made new friends and built stronger relationships with old friends. I get to connect with other fans and some of my favorite artists. I may miss out on sleep but it is nothing in comparison to the fun that is had with friends and country music fans alike. Whether it is your first year, or if you have been attending for years you always feel like you are attending with the largest family one could ever ask for. Thank you CMA for hosting a wonderful event every year and I look forward to coming back for many more years ahead. CMA Fest 2019 – I. AM. READY. Until then…have a great year!

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