NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — We are only a few days out from the longest-running country music festival, and organizers are gearing up to welcome tens of thousands of country music fans to Music City for the 50th annual CMA Fest.
Sarah Trahern, CMA CEO, said she is excited for all the artists, experiences and fans to come together in the heart of Nashville for the big anniversary celebration.
“Each year we have about 50 percent new people coming and 50 percent people who’ve come before,” she said of the CMA Fest crowds. “We have a number of people who’ve come, really, since the early days back at the Fairgrounds. We have some artists who have played all 50 years, which is pretty remarkable.”
This year, Trahern said, country music fans will be coming from all 50 states and 42 different countries, giving Nashville the opportunity to show what it offers the world.
“We may put on the event, but the city of Nashville is really our partner in the backdrop,” she said.
Not everyone who attends CMA Fest will have a ticket to the stadium performances, she said. In fact, upwards of 30,000 people per day will not be crossing the Cumberland River into Nissan Stadium and will instead partake in the free stages downtown and in the Music City Center.
“I actually think Nashville itself is a really important draw for the people coming to the festival,” she said.
All artists play basically for free, Trahern said, allowing money coming into the festival to be put toward the CMA Foundation. This year will see $2.5 million added to the organization to support public music education programs across the country, she added. To date the Foundation has awarded almost $30 million toward music education in public schools, Trahern said.
“To date we’ve given $29 million to put music education in public schools and to support every child having equitable access to instruments and music in the public schools, thanks to the artists and all the people who are here working,” she said. “It’s one of the things I’m most proud of, as someone who grew up in a public school music education program myself. I don’t music for a living, but what did I learn out of music? I learned discipline; I learned collaboration; I learned to have a place to go express myself if I was really mad or happy. We’re really dedicated to the growth of the Foundation.”
Having that much money be put toward students will hopefully ease some of the traffic woes for those living and working in the downtown area next week, Trahern added.
“For all the people in Nashville who have to put up with bad traffic next week, just remember when you’re in that traffic jam and things might be a little crazy that the money that’s raised this week goes to support kids in our city,” she said. “Hopefully that’ll make it a little better.”
Trahern also provided some important tips for first-time Fest goers.
“I often get asked about what pointers fans coming to Fest for the first time need to think about. The first is comfortable shoes,” she said.
Second, for those staying in or adjacent to downtown Nashville, Trahern suggested bringing a change of clothes.
Third, and most importantly, she said, stay hydrated.
“The most important thing is to drink a lot of water and stay hydrated. It looks like it may be clear; it may be warm, though, so the water’s going to be particularly important,” she said.
For those coming in from out of town, Trahern recommended downloading the CMA Fest app, as it will be the primary way for festival organizers to communicate with fans in the event of a weather emergency.