I still call it Fan Fair. I stubbornly always will. Oh I’ll throw out the random “CMA Music Fest” when I feel like I have to for someone to know what I am talking about. But to me, it’ll always be Fan Fair.
Fan Fair is a yearly event where country music fans descend upon Nashville — where a vast majority of your country music artists call home — for concerts and the opportunity to meet their favorite artists face-to-face. It’s also the artists chance to say thank you to their fans for their loyalty. No other genre of music has an event quite like this one.
This is the 40th Fan Fair.
It started in 1972, with only 5,000 people attending at Nashville Municipal Auditorium. In 1982, the event moved to the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, accommodating more fans and more events around the Fair.
Fan Fair called the Fairgrounds its home until 2000, which is when it moved to downtown. In 2004, it’s name was changed to CMA Music Festival… which, as I’ve stated, I refuse to use, eight years later. The 2010 boasted its best numbers to date, with more than 65,000 country music fans attending.
My very first trip to Nashville was in 1997 to attend Fan Fair. Who knew that I’d call Nashville home almost exactly 10 years later. I’ve attended events around Fan Fair in downtown since I moved here (especially after big chunks were made free of charge!), and the downtown employee is grateful for the added revenue the event brings to the bars, stores and restaurants. The long-time fan still thinks the Fairgrounds was an excellent location for Fan Fair, making everything much more centrally located. But… that’s just me. Vast majority of people will disagree with me.
So, as someone who has attended the event as a fan, and who has since poked around it as a fan AND local… I’d like to share my own little pieces of advice for those attending this year’s event:
- Wear comfortable shoes. Personally, I would NOT recommend flip flops (Though, lol, you’ll probably see me down there one afternoon wearing them.) if you plan to hit the photo lines and will be walking a lot. Wear shoes that will support your feet. They’ll let you rock it all the days of the event, versus wearing yourself out the first day.
- SUNSCREEN. This is not just some catchy line from a Baz Luhrmann song in 1998. No. WEAR SUNSCREEN. After Day 1, do you REALLY want to be laying in your hotel room, naked, radiating heat, cursing the fact that even the bedsheets hurt? Trust me. You’ll rock a suntan after that many days even WITH sunscreen. Do yourself a favor and USE IT.
- Hydrate. Welcome to Nashville where it is always ten degrees above normal the week of Fan Fair. We don’t want any heat-related deaths when all you have to do it DRINK WATER. Yeah, that beer looks good. I like a cold beer pretty much any time. But right now? You need water. At LEAST alternate beer with water. Kay?
- Please, please, please remember that people live here. This is our home. We have jobs to go to. Bills to pay. Lives to lead. We are not all here on vacation. PLEASE remember that. Have a heads up about traffic, etc. Don’t stop in the middle of the street to take pictures, oblivious of the six cars behind you late for work.
- Don’t fall all over any artists you see just out on the town. Most don’t mind pausing to take a picture or two (especially during Fan Fair — they know that’s why you are here), but don’t decide they are your best friend and you’re going to sit beside them all night. Nine times out of then, this will run the artist off. Grab your photo or autograph, say a few words, then move on and don’t stare. If you stay cool, they’ll probably hang out for awhile. Then you can “experience your favorite artist in their natural habitat.”
- Don’t wear a fanny pack. I would think this would be obvious, but every year there are one or two that show up. And it slays us all.
- Enjoy your stay. That’s what its all about. If you miss an autograph signing. If you can’t get right up to the stage to take a picture. Don’t let that ruin the experience. Shrug it off and continue to enjoy yourself.
- Tip the band in the bars. It’s not a joke. This really is how they make their living. Many rely on this week to “catch up” on late bills or to get a new piece of gear. They are there to bring you entertainment, and the least you can do it toss a buck in the tip jar (which will be split up among those on stage — so if its a 4 piece, each guy is getting a quarter). Thanks in advance.
I am sure I could write a few dozen more kernels of advice, but I’ll leave it at these. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!! And keep your eyes peeled… in the next few days, you might find my lens trained on you.