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By Hannah Compton

Having only been to the CMA Festival twice, I am no expert on all there is to do there, however, I know it is impossible to do everything. As I have said before, fan club parties are a must and I have posted in a blog before on which ones I have been to.

It may be worth becoming a member at The Country Music Hall of Fame, even if you are only going for the Festival. I suggest this, because it’s not that much and it includes entry to the Music Hall Of Fame as often as you like, so if you plan on going anyway, it makes sense. It also includes a Member refreshment room during the Festival, with free soft drinks and snacks like crisps and you can get money off merchandise. I also recommend keeping an eye on their website,as the Country Music Hall of Fame hosts a lot of signings during the Festival and Members get first opportunity. You have to buy a CD or book of the artist to request a ‘meet and greet’ ticket, but this is included in cost of the CD or book etc.

The Country Music Hall of Fame also does a show during the Festival. Last year it was meant to be The Henningsens but ended up being Striking Matches,due to illness. If you are a Member you get to go to this for free and it usually includes a hatch print of that show. You do have to put your name on the list though – all information should be on their website. As the seats fill up fast you need to put your name down asap.

Last year with The Country Music Hall of Fame signings, I got to meet:

Lauren Alaina
Josh Turner
Ashley Monroe

Others included Kellie Pickler but she clashed with another event, so I sadly could not go.

I would also suggest a definite event to go to is the Darius Rucker and Friends benefit concert for St Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Tickets do sell out quickly,so it is a matter of getting on line as soon as they go on sale. There are different packages – for example, the tables at the front are a little more expensive but also include a ‘meet and greet’ with Darius. This is so worth it. I went in 2014 and got front table with a ‘meet and greet’. Darius was very lovely. His guests included: Cassadee Pope, Eli Young Band, Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum, Thompson Square, David Nail, Clint Black, Corey Smith and the amazing Kenny Rogers. This was such a treat and unmissable – one of my highlights, if not the highlight of the whole Festival. They hold an auction there for signed items which you can silently bid on. Darius and all the guests perform their own songs and then a song together with Darius. I would say each artist sings about three songs, two of their own and one with Darius which is either his song or another artist’s.

This event is held at The Wildhorse Saloon and usually is at the start of CMA week, so will not clash with any LP Field dates. This is worth every penny as it’s a worthy cause and you get so much for your money. Wherever you sit is a good view, but if you want the ‘meet and greet’ get online early. Keep an eye on The Wildhorse Saloon and Darius’ website for details.

City of Hope Softball Challenge

This is a great charitable event and so much fun to watch as Country artists and Nashville actors battle it out on the field. It’s a good price and you get a nice free poster if you arrive early. Most people go there to get autographs. The first year I went, which was 2010, it was easy and calm and I managed to get loads of autographs including Luke Bryan. However, 2014 was awful. Now, most people go there are autograph hunters. I got trod on several times, pushed around, elbowed and somebody jumped on my foot and almost broke it – and the autograph hunters just do not care. If you want to go to support a charity and enjoy watching a fun game then you must go. If you are going for autographs I would suggest no – I was injured for months and had a terrible time and wished I had opted to go to another event instead. I will never do this again due to injuries caused by very selfish young people.

ABC Booth

The ABC booth is usually held on the Friday and Saturday in the Main Street. I suggest you check this out if you are a fan of the show Nashville. Last year Jonathan Jackson (Avery) and Chip Esten (Deacon) did a guest talk and ‘meet and greet’. I managed to meet Jonathan Jackson, but not Chip at this event as I made the mistake of going to the softball game. Check out in advance who will be there and get there super early in order to queue for tickets. Even if the event doesn’t start till the afternoon, arrive early morning to get tickets, as people will queue early.

Opry shop

Often, the Opry store downtown holds CD signings. In 2014 Little Big Town did one. Again, keep an eye on the Opry website and ask in store, too. It’s another one where I suggest queuing early as you can.

Music City Centre

Now a lot of people concentrate on the lottery system to get tickets to meet artists. I have never won this way but do not let it discourage you. Like I have said before, go to as many Fan Club Parties as you can for better experience – and you get to meet your favourites. Also, a lot of artists don’t require tickets – whilst they may not be massive artists, in my opinion they are just as good. In the years I have been, I have met various artists this way, such as:

Striking Matches
Kellie Pickler
Juliane Hough
Katie Armiger
Ashton Sheppard
The Springs

And more – but can’t remember off the top of my head.

Just check out who will be where at what time, as some artists who do require tickets have what they call ‘hopeful’ queues. If you get there early, you may get to meet them after all.


Annette Gibbons
Hi, I’m Annette, I have been a huge country music fan since the early 90s those were the days we were lucky enough to have CMT in the UK. I enjoy nothing more than listening to country music whilst having a cold beer (or a moonshine) with friends. I try to as many gigs as I can here in the UK and in the USA; I think of Nashville as my second home and I am lucky to have made some amazing friends in Tennessee. Think Country is something I am very proud of, I just want to share my love and passion of all things country music related with you all.
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