Nashville marks 40 years of country music festival

Tue Jun 7, 2011 3:39pm EDT
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By Vernell Hackett

NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - The capital of country music lives up to its nickname beginning on Thursday where some 70,000 fans get the chance to mingle with their musical heroes at the CMA Music Fest.

The June 9-12 music festival, which is celebrating its 40th year, aims to get fans as close as possible to obtain autographs, photo opportunities, and a snatch of conversation with performers.

"Music Fest is a time for all of us to thank the fans and be here for them," said Miranda Lambert, who attended the event as a fan before performing in it as a star.

The music plays practically nonstop in Nashville from 10 a.m. to midnight on stages set up from Fifth Avenue to the Cumberland River and across the river at a stadium.

The projected 2011 lineup of more than 150 performers includes Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley, Kelly Clarkson, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, Billy Ray Cyrus, Gary Allan, Bo Bice, Katie Armiger, Crystal Bowersox, and newlyweds Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton. Veteran performers include Jeannie Seely, Gene Watson and Earl Thomas Conley.

Some fans come year after year, lining up for autograph and photo opportunities with favorite performers at the Nashville Convention Center.

Last year 65,000 attended the festival and fans queued around the convention center to get coveted signatures from Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. This year will find similar scenes as Dolly Parton, Lady Antebellum, Trace Adkins, Rascal Flatts, Blake Shelton, Martina McBride, Randy Travis, Darius Rucker, Kellie Pickler and Easton Corbin sign autographs.

Joe Bonsall of the Oak Ridge Boys has been to every festival from its beginnings downtown in 1972 to its move to the Tennessee Fairgrounds and now back downtown.   Continued...