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Monday, 14 July, 2008 0:34 AM

2008 CMA Music Festival Attendance Up 9.4 Percent

Photo by John Russell / CMA

Rascal Flatts makes a surprise appearance and performs at the Nightly Concert on the Vault Concert Stage LP Field Thursday, June 5 in Downtown Nashville during the 2008 CMA Music Festival.

By Wendy Pearl
© 2008 CMA Close Up News Service

CMA Music Festival hit an all-time high attendance record in 2008 with a 9.4 percent increase over 2007 during the four-day Festival, Thursday through Sunday, in Downtown Nashville.

"Even with gasoline prices around $4 a gallon and weak economic conditions around the country, we saw an increase in our attendance on every level from local and regional participation to those fans that traveled from around the world," said CMA Chief Executive Officer Tammy Genovese. "I believe that speaks to the strength of the event, the popularity of our artists, the dedication of our fans, and the entertainment value of the Festival."

The average daily attendance in 2008 was 52,000. By comparison, in 2007 the average daily attendance was nearly 48,000.

"We made a decision this year to announce our attendance as a daily average rather than a four-day aggregate so people are not overwhelmed by a huge number and potentially turned off from attending the Festival because they are concerned about parking or moving around downtown," Genovese said. "It is actually much easier than people think and we want to communicate that in a new way."

Fans definitely enjoyed themselves and made it known at the Box Office. Tickets for CMA Music Festival 2009, which will be held June 11-14, went on sale Saturday and Gold Circle four-day ticket packages sold out in a record 15 minutes. By Sunday, advance sales bested sales during the same period in 2007, by 4.2 percent.

"You know you are giving the fans what they want when they put down their hard-earned money for an event and we haven't even announced who will be performing," remarked Genovese.

Increased sales of four-day ticket packages and single concert tickets contributed to the growth, as well as record attendance at CMA Music Festival's free areas - including the McDonald's®-Dr Pepper® Family Zone, Fun Zone, Chevy(tm) Sports Zone and Chevy Plaza.

Surprise appearances are a hallmark of this event. And 2008 didn't disappoint. The first night at the VAULT(tm) Concert Stage at LP Field included an unannounced appearance by reigning CMA Vocal Group of the Year Rascal Flatts. On Friday, Keith Urban delighted the crowd - and one fan in particular - when he leapt from the stage, sprinted into the stands and autographed his guitar for a stunned fan. Jessica Simpson made several unannounced appearances including the Wednesday Block Party, the Fan Fair Hall and at LP Field. Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn also made an unexpected appearance to sign autographs for fans.

"We love giving our fans something special and unexpected," Genovese said. "It is amazing to hear the stadium erupt in applause when an unannounced guest steps out on that stage."

And it all benefits children and music education in Nashville. The artists and celebrities participating in CMA Music Festival donate their time. They are not compensated for the hours they spend signing autographs and performing. In appreciation of their exhaustive efforts, CMA donates half the net proceeds from the event to music education on their behalf through a partnership with the Nashville Alliance for Public Education called "Keep the Music Playing."

To date, CMA has donated more than $1 million on behalf of the artists who participate in the Festival - including $368,500 from the 2006 CMA Music Festival and $655,600 from 2007 CMA Music Festival. Several students groups participated in the Festival including drum corps from Antioch and Overton High Schools, who marched in "The Fourth Annual CMA Music Festival Kick-Off Parade." In addition, 800 students were given tickets to attend Saturday night through the generosity of HCA/TriStar.

CMA Music Festival is - and always will be - about the fans and their relationship with the artists and the music. The theme is universal and in 2008 Festival attendees came from every state and 28 foreign countries including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jersey, Latvia, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom (which includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

The Festival got underway Wednesday with Grand Marshall James Otto leading the way for "The Fourth Annual CMA Music Festival Kick-Off Parade" with an estimated crowd of 12,000 spectators. Following the procession, the fun kicked into high gear with "The Third Annual CMA Music Festival Block Party" on the Chevy Plaza at the Sommet Center. Keith Anderson, Luke Bryan, Joe Nichols, James Otto, Phil Stacey, Chris Young, and Zac Brown Band performed for an estimated crowd of 6,000 according to police.

Nightly Concerts on the VAULT(tm) Concert Stage at LP Field

In all, 36 acts participated in the star-packed Nightly Concerts on the VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field. The lineup Thursday included Jewel, Montgomery Gentry, Kellie Pickler, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and acoustic performances by Luke Bryan and Jennifer Hanson.

Pre-show activities included the presentation of the Stars and Stripes by the United States Marine Corps Recruiting Station Nashville Color Guard and a fly over with FA-18s from The Bengals of VMFA (AW)-224 from Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort, S.C., a tradition that was a crowd pleaser all four nights. Lyric Street recording artist and season six "American Idol" finalist Phil Stacey sang the national anthem, and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean officially welcomed fans to Music City for the 37th annual event, which began as Fan Fair® in 1972.

Fans were treated to performances Friday by Faith Hill, Jack Ingram, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Josh Turner, Carrie Underwood, and Keith Urban. Julianne Hough performed with Turner's band. Jake Owen and Ashton Shepherd performed acoustic sets.

Though the evening marked Hill's first performance at the Festival in 10 years, she insisted that her appearance felt like a family event. "Well, it's a short drive," she joked. "And my kids are at home, so I kind of feel like I'm off tonight."

Saturday's lineup rocked the house with Trace Adkins, Rodney Atkins, Alan Jackson, Little Big Town, Craig Morgan, and Kenny Rogers. Jason Michael Carroll, Jamey Johnson, and Darryl Worley delivered acoustic performances.

Sunday's lineup featured Bucky Covington, Billy Ray Cyrus, Sara Evans, James Otto, Randy Travis, and Dwight Yoakam. Phil Stacey, John Stephan and Chuck Wicks performed acoustically.

Yoakam last appeared at the Festival 20 years ago when he performed with personal friend and mentor Buck Owens. "It's great to be here at CMA Music Festival," he said. "It's been a long, long time." Then, referring to the many giants of Country Music who had played at CMA Music Festival, he added, "It hasn't been a very succinct journey to this point for me, but the shoulder I'm standing on is theirs."

Greased Lightning® Riverfront Daytime Stages

Fan favorites Phil Vassar and Jo Dee Messina got the 2008 CMA Music Festival off to an energetic start Thursday morning during the kick-off concert at Riverfront Park. Fans were waiting before dawn to see the powerhouse performers.

The dual stages bustled throughout the four days with a rich array of performers from both major and independent record labels. In all, 106 acts performed more than 34 hours of concerts.

truTV(tm) Fan Fair® Hall

The state of continuous commotion that's been the standard for the truTV(tm) Fan Fair Hall was back in force with 408 artists and celebrities appearing at the Nashville Convention Center. Exhibit booths sold out with 110 exhibitors. Attendance over the four days was more than 53,000. For the first time, single day tickets to the Fan Fair Hall were available for purchase Saturday and Sunday.

"This is my first time at CMA Music Festival. I'm really impressed with the way fans form friendships here. I definitely want to become a part of this community over the next several years," said Taylor Young, 27, of Mountain View, Calif.

As in previous years, dedicated fans camped out on the street outside of the Exhibit Hall starting at 8:00 PM, not only in hopes of being the first in line for autographs when the doors opened the following morning, but also to share in what has become a special tradition for this group. "I came down here at 5 this morning and found there was already a long line to get in," said Sam Pfeiffer, 36, of Arlington, Va., on Thursday morning. "I guess I'll have to make it earlier tomorrow, but that just adds to the sense of adventure."

Their dedication paid off. Aaron Tippin surprised the assembled fans and signed autographs around 2:00 AM Thursday following his performance at The Marty Stuart's Late Night Jam.

Country superstar Alan Jackson made his first appearance in the Fan Fair Hall since 1998 Friday signing 300 autographs in two hours with his wife and author Denise Jackson.

Teen sensation Taylor Swift signed in the Big Machine Records booth Saturday from the time the doors opened at 10:00 AM until 6:00 PM - with no break. She signed 900 autographs, the longest consecutive signing since Garth Brooks' marathon 23 hour signing in 1996.

Kix Brooks made a surprise appearance in the Fan Fair Hall signing approximately 500 autographs in three hours at the Brooks & Dunn booth - after signing another 100 in the Borders® booth. Carrie Underwood signed 400 autographs in four hours and Wynonna signed for five hours. Other popular artists included Jessica Simpson, Kellie Pickler, Sara Evans, Julianne Hough, Lady Antebellum, Bucky Covington, Billy Gilman, Emerson Drive, Joe Nichols, James Otto and Chris Young.

Mary Kay® presents Acoustic Corner, which launched in 2004 as a showcase for independent artists, featured 30 solo or group performers. The area on the second floor of the Convention Center hosted a steady stream of fans.

Premiere on the Air

CMA's official radio partner, Premiere Radio Networks, brought 20 of Country radio's top-rated stations from markets including Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Louisville, Nashville, Norfolk, Phoenix, Portland, Raleigh-Durham, San Diego, Seattle, Tampa, Washington, D.C., and overnight syndicated radio program "After MidNite with Blair Garner" to Nashville for three days of remote broadcasts from the Convention Center. More than 75 artists and celebrities participated in the remotes reaching 10 million listeners.

In addition, Premiere also teamed up with several ABC Television Network affiliates to bring the excitement of the event to cities across the country. Jack Ingram and the stars of ABC Daytime joined on-air personalities for the first-hand reports to several markets including Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Phoenix and Seattle.

"With the new television studio added to the service we've been offering to radio at CMA Music Festival, we expect to help participating stations reach an audience of more than 13 million this year," said Ilycia Deitch Chiarmonte, Senior Director of Events for Premiere Radio Networks.


Borders had locations at the Exhibit Hall, Riverfront and LP Field. The Top 5 selling CD titles belonged to (in order) Alan Jackson, Taylor Swift, Joe Nichols, Carrie Underwood, and Chris Young - who all signed in the Fan Fair Hall during the Festival. Other bestselling artists included Lady Antebellum, Jake Owen, Kellie Pickler, Josh Turner, Keith Urban, Whiskey Falls, and Stephen Cochran.

"One of the goals with this event is to help build a marketing platform for developing artists," Genovese said. "With the variety of artists on the list, it tells me that our fans are discovering new music at CMA Music Festival and they aren't waiting until they get home to buy it."

CMA Music Festival Merchandise

The official CMA Music Festival merchandise line was very popular with attendees. According to Music City Merchandise, which designs and produces the collection, onsite sales were up nearly 11 percent over 2007. A popular item this year was a T-shirt that listed all announced performers for the Nightly Concerts. Music City Merchandise, which had booths at the truTV Fan Fair Hall, Greased Lightning Daytime Stages, McDonald's-Dr Pepper Family Zone, the Sommet Center, and VAULT Concert Stage at LP Field, has been CMA's merchandise partner for the past 14 years.

Chevy(tm) Sports Zone

CMA's free Chevy Sports Zone was a huge hit with participants and fans looking for fun and friendly competition. More thank 100 celebrities, artists and athletes participated in Chevy Sports Zone activities during the four days.

"The Field & Stream Celebrity Total Outdoorsman Challenge presented by Mobil 1" was a highlight Thursday with Country Music artists and other celebrities showing off their outdoor skills with contests in archery, fly casting, bait casting, and air rifle and attempting to beat the two-time Total Outdoorsman Challenge Champion Paul Thompson, who also joined the competition. In an upset that had people buzzing, Daniel Lee Martin beat Thompson for the First Place seat. Martin's prizes including a televised hunting trip and new BowTech bow. On Friday, the Field & Stream held local and regional Total Outdoorsman Challenges. Cory Jones finished first out of nine competitors in the local qualifier, winning an all-expense paid trip for two to the 2008 CMA Awards and moving on to the regional qualifier. Also moving on to the regional qualifier were Scot Marcin, Paul Hughes, and Martin (who was invited to compete in the regional qualifier based on his scores from Thursday). Nineteen outdoorsmen competed in the regional qualifier Friday afternoon. Chris Nischan and Martin had the best scores and will compete in Field & Stream Total Outdoorsman Challenge National Championship, Sept. 5-7 in Springfield, Mo.

The fur was flying during the DockDogs® Competitions Presented by Outdoor Channel. Competitions took place in the DockDogs' 25,000 gallon mobile pool. During the Celebrity Challenge on Sunday, Outdoor Channel host Mike Pawlawski and his canine partner Quasi won with a distance of 24 feet, 10 inches, setting a new record for the DockDogs Celebrity Challenge. The Outdoor Channel's Tiffany Lakowsky and Bo won the silver medal with a distance of 20 feet, 5 inches. Trick Pony's Keith Burns and Cheyenne took home the bronze leaping for 19 feet, 11 inches. Also placing in the top tier were CMT's Katie Cook and Rachel Reinhart from the band Gloriana.

The Celebrity Sports Challenge Presented by Glaceau Vitaminwater® Hosted by Steve Azar proved to be a fan favorite with an amazing array of sports champions and celebrities competing along with Azar and other artists. Five teams competed, each identified by the color of their jersey. In the end, victory was awarded to the Navy team, which included Todd Armstrong, Steve Azar, Aaron Benward of Blue County, former NFL linebacker Steve Cole, Tennessee Titans punter Craig Hentrich, and Ken Purvis.

The Outdoor Life Calling for Conservation Competition took place Friday. Hosted by Shoot Straight TV's Chad Schearer, this game-calling contest highlights the launch of a new conservation program: Outdoor Life's "Project Save-A-Stream," a nationwide program dedicated to cleaning up our waterways. Professional and celebrity callers competed to determine the best turkey and big game calls.

Two winners were selected: Julie Ingram was the audience favorite, based on volume of applause, but the judges gave the official first prize to Trent Willmon, along with an Alberta Canada Black Bear Hunt and a check for $1,000 to donate to the conservation organization of his choice.

The first ever CMA Music Festival BBQ Championship took place Saturday and Sunday. Teams from across the nation competed in four categories (pork ribs, pork shoulder, beef brisket and chicken) for a chance to win a share of more than $17,000 in cash and prizes to be distributed to category winners.

The Grand Champion of the CMA Music Festival BBQ Championship, the Lotta Bull BBQ team from Marietta, Okla., will receive $2,500, a CMA Awards trip package for two including accommodations, an invitation to take part in the prestigious KCBS-sanctioned American Royale competition, and eligibility to participate in the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue (better known as "The Jack") in late October in Lynchburg, TN.

The CBR/RFD-TV Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge was held Saturday with artists squaring off against champion bull riders to see who could make the eight seconds. The event was hosted by Tuff Hedeman, five-time World Champion and President of CBR. The winning team was professional rider Jake Littlefield and Jason Brown.

The Fiesta Celebrity Grilling Challenge was held Saturday with host Lee McWright, Executive Chef for Fiesta Gas Grills. Artists and celebrities were paired with professional chefs in a culinary competition. The winning team was Mark Wills and Chef Jason Brumm of the Nashville restaurant Radius10.

Sunday's "Third Annual New Holland/Michael Peterson Celebrity Tractor Race" had artists and celebrities revved up with contestants racing against the clock through an obstacle course on a New Holland Boomer(tm) compact tractor. The winner was singer/songwriter Darby Ledbetter with an astounding time of .47 seconds. Trent Willmon was second with .51, followed closely by Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board, with a time of .52 seconds.

Chevy Plaza

The Chevy Plaza free area on the Sommet Center plaza buzzed with activities featuring vehicle displays, interactive consumer experiences, games, and the Chevy Ride & Drive event. The Chevy Stage featured 33 daily performances. Visitors were also able to test-drive an Avalanche, Cobalt Sport, HHR, Impala SS, Tahoe Hybrid, all new Malibu, Aveo, Equinox Sport or one of two Silverados (1500 and 2500 HD). The number of test drives topped 1,000 and Chevy provided 34,700 giveaway items including hats, shirts, mugs, playing cards, and more.

McDonald's®-Dr Pepper® Family Zone

Growing in popularity each year since it was introduced in 2001, the free McDonald's-Dr Pepper Family Zone was buzzing during CMA Music Festival with activities for youngsters and the young at heart.
The Family Zone was a popular destination Sunday for the McDonald's Family Picnic, with McDonald's providing free sandwiches to the first 500 attendees.

For the second year, top high school vocalists from across the nation were in Nashville to compete for the prestigious title "Music City Rising Star." The Music City's Rising Star Youth Vocal Soloist Competition was held in the McDonald's-Dr Pepper Family Zone with 129 students from 25 states competing. The Top 5 finalists were announced Saturday on the Greased Lightning Daytime Stages. Winners from first to fifth were Jernie Talles, 14, of Fort Pierce, Fla., Morgan Grotheer, 17, of Savannah, Ga., Kaley Caterton, 15, of Waco, Texas, and Anna Brooke Higdon, 17, of Sevierville, Tenn.

CMA Celebrity Close Up Presented by Great American Country

The inside track is what CMA Celebrity Close Up is all about with a lively question and answer format hosted by media personality Lorianne Crook. And she treated the record-breaking audience of more than 3,400 over two sessions to a bit of insider information with guests Bucky Covington, Sara Evans, Joe Nichols, Jake Owen, Taylor Swift, Randy Travis and Gretchen Wilson.

Great American Country (GAC) was the presenting sponsor of the celebrity gab sessions, which were taped for two future television broadcasts by the same name on the Country Music-themed cable network. The first episode is scheduled to air Saturday, July 19 (9:00 PM/ET) and the second episode will air Saturday, July 26 (9:00 PM/ET). Schedule and times subject to change.

"The participating artists are really in their element in front of a live crowd of fans, and we always see a side of them we never expected," said Sarah Trahern, GAC Senior VP of Programming. "Answering questions directly from their fans really gets to the heart of who they are, and the featured artists tell us they enjoy themselves as much as the audience does."

CMA Music Festival After Hours(tm) Presented by CMT(tm)

The fun never ends. Sixteen clubs participated in CMA Music Festival After Hours presented by CMT offering drink specials and activities for festival goers and Nashvillians.

"The Official CMA After Hours Kick-Off Concerts" were held at the Hard Rock Outdoor Stage with performances by The Clark Brothers, Whiskey Falls, and Mark Wills. Hard Rock Café Nashville's Stub Hub Songwriters in the Round returned to the After Hours lineup for its second year providing fans a glimpse into the stories behind the songs.

ABC Daytime

Drama is a staple of both Country Music lyrics and daytime television series, and the artists and actors met at the crossroads during 2008 CMA Music Festival when the ABC daytime stars of "All My Children," "One Life to Live," and "General Hospital" made their return at the Festival.

Daytime actors that attended CMA Music Festival included Bobbie Eakes ("Krystal Carey") and Ricky Paull Goldin ("Jake Martin") from "All My Children;" Kassie DePaiva ("Blair Cramer") from "One Life To Live;" and Bradford Anderson ("Damian Spinelli"), Rebecca Herbst ("Elizabeth Webber"), and Jason Thompson ("Dr. Patrick Drake") from "General Hospital".

ABC Block Party

The ABC Block Party hosted by "Bachelor" alum Bob Guiney on Saturday included a performance by Country artist Marcel, appearances by the Daytime stars including a performances by Kassie DePaiva and Bobbie Eakes, a question and answer session with two-time "Dancing With the Stars" champion and emerging Country star Julianne Hough, and trivia contests where winners received "Dirty, Sexy Money" that could be redeemed onsite for ABC merchandise.

ABC Television Special - Monday, Sept. 8

As previously announced, the Festival was filmed for a two-hour television special "CMA Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock" scheduled to air on the ABC Television Network Monday, Sept. 8 (9:00-11:00 PM/ET). Hosting the special for the first time will be two-time "Dancing with the Stars" champion Julianne Hough, former "American Idol" finalist Kellie Pickler and reigning CMA Horizon Award winner Taylor Swift. Robert Deaton is the Executive Producer. Gary Halvorson is the Director. The special was shot in high definition and will be broadcast in 720 Progressive (720P), ABC's selected HDTV format, with 5.1 channel surround sound.

This is the fourth year the special will air on ABC. The primetime special debuted on the CBS Television Network in 2004.

Both the concerts and the interaction between the artists and fans will be captured in the special with heart-pounding performances interspersed with heart-warming encounters between the artists and their avid admirers. Taped exclusively for the special, cameras followed the stories of several Festival attendees, who had their dreams come true when they were granted a once-in-a-lifetime meeting and personal encounter with their favorite Country stars.


Photo by Jim Hagans / CMA

Jessica Simpson greets Ellis Woodall III from Nashville, Tenn., in the truTV Fan Fair Hall at the Nashville Convention Center Friday, June 6 during the 2008 CMA Music Festival. Simpson also greeted the crowd at the Nightly Concert on the Vault Concert Stage LP Field Thursday, June 5. is Detroit's exclusive media outlet for this syndicated weekly column!



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Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer.