Why We Are Ending Our CMA Fest Tradition
It is with a heavy heart that I tell you we are ending our CMA Fest Tradition after seven years. The focus seems to have shifted from the fans who buy tickets year after year to the ABC Special and cramming as many people into the festival as possible. We are tired of fighting the crowds and after an unaddressed security issue this year, we will no longer be attending CMA Fest.
CMA Fest Tradition
My parents had planned a family vacation to Greece when I graduated High School. Somewhere along the way, we learned about CMA Fest and I decided that I would rather go to that (crazy, I know). We had so much fun at CMA Fest that we decided to go the following year. The same thing happened the next year, and thus our CMA Fest Tradition was born.
For seven years, my mom, sister, and I have braved the summer heat to spend five days in Nashville, Tennessee for CMA Fest. My husband joined us during year four and has enjoyed it as much as we have these past few years.
We have seen Garth Brooks, Chris Stapleton, Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Steven Tyler, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, Jake Owen, Martina McBride, Jason Mraz, Brothers Osborne, Lenny Kravits, Alabama, Kenny Rogers, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Alan Jackson, Chris Young, Florida Georgia Line, Hank Williams Jr., Luke Bryan, Thomas Rhett, Sam Hunt, Old Dominion, Zac Brown Band, Little Big Town, Randy Travis, Reba McEntire, and more. We even sang “Rose Garden” with Lynn Anderson one year!
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Focus On ABC Special
In 1972, Fan Fair started in Nashville with 5,000 people and 20 hours of entertainment to give fans a chance to see their favorite country music stars. The festival, hosted by the Country Music Association, continued to grow and underwent a name change in 2004, becoming CMA Fest. Now, the festival includes more than 400 un-paid artists, performing and hosting autograph sessions, and 150+ hours of entertainment. A portion of the proceeds go to charity. More than 200,000 people from around the world attend the festival, although less than half are CMA Fest ticket holders.
In 2004, ABC filmed parts of CMA Fest and aired it as a special, “Country’s Night To Rock”. The show was so popular that ABC continues to air “Country’s Night To Rock” after CMA Fest each year. Our first year at CMA Fest, we did not even notice the filming. The second year, a huge scaffold was added for filming purposes, completely blocking our view of the stage.
Since then, production for “Country’s Night To Rock” has become more and more a priority during the nightly concerts at Nissan Stadium. The set changes are long, because they are also getting the hosts ready to film, and we have to sit there in silence for long periods of time. So we pay to see a concert, put on for CMA Fest, that is produced entirely for the ABC special. You can imagine our frustrations.
No Reason To Buy A 4-Day Ticket
Aside from the nightly concerts at Nissan Stadium and entry into Fan Fair X, there are no advantages to buying a 4-Day Ticket. Other than the two events just mentioned, everything else at CMA Fest is free. Majority of people in Nashville for CMA Fest are not ticket holders. It looks to me like you would want to reward the people who are buying tickets to your event, when they do not have to, year after year. Instead, 4-Day Ticket holders are just another face in the crowd.
Try going to a concert at the Riverfront on a Saturday afternoon–it’s impossible. With thousands of people standing on top of each other, it is miserable. It would be nice for the 4-Day Ticket holders to have a separate entrance and seating area at each of the stages. Yes, 4-Day Ticket holders can enter the Riverfront a few minutes before everybody else. But why should you have to get there at 9 AM and sit all day in the sun when the person you want to see isn’t until 2 PM?
Going to CMA Fest this year? Booking a hotel room is half of the battle!
Nissan Stadium Not Enforcing Rules
The lack of rule enforcement at Nissan Stadium has been an issue for years. “No tailgating” signs are posted throughout the property, and it is listed on the ticket, yet the parking lots are full of tailgaters every year. Beer cans and trash cover the parking lots. We have seen people passed out on the ground, including those no where near the drinking age. Grills, tables, and chairs take up multiple parking spaces, forcing others to park at the back of the lot or on the sidewalks.
The biggest joke at CMA Fest is that tickets “must be worn” at all times inside of Nissan Stadium. Tickets are not worn and staff members do not check tickets when you enter a section. The result: people sit wherever they want. And I mean wherever they want. Every year that we have been going, people seat hop throughout the stadium. One person sits in a seat that is not theirs (as in, a 300 level ticket holder sits in a 100 level seat), invites all of their friends, and pretty soon ten people are crammed in a two seat area, spilling out into the aisle. This is a big reason that we are ending our CMA Fest Tradition.
Our Security Issue
Although our frustrations with CMA Fest are not new, our last straw came when we had a security issue this year. Long story short, my mom was harassed at Nissan Stadium for two nights by a group of people who had enjoyed tailgating too much, were belligerent, and seat hopping with their friends. She was called every name you can think of and our safety was explicitly threatened. After contacting the stadium’s security, Mr. Michael attempted to help us but we saw no real solution (the man who threatened us was “kicked out” but his ticket was not taken, so he was back the following night).
We were in shock that this had happened at CMA Fest. Enough was enough. After looking online for hours, there is no one to contact at the CMA Music Association regarding the event. Of course. So, we paid $25 to park at the Convention Center and were run across downtown, missing all of the last day’s daytime events, in an attempt to get our issue resolved. One CMA Fest information booth heard our whole story, took down our information, and offered us a sincere apology, but they never contacted us. I tweeted the official CMA Fest twitter in an attempt to get help that way and did not receive a response (although they Tweeted all day).
After being sent to five places, the ticket booth inside of Nissan Stadium was finally able to help us. Amy and Jennifer gave us new tickets so that we could enjoy our last night of CMA Fest concerts. Even in our new area, seat hopping was an issue and guests were noticeably angry.
Clearly, safety is not a concern at CMA Fest. Nobody takes responsibility or is held accountable for what happens at the festival.
CMA Fest 2018
We did not renew our tickets for 2018 and have no plans to do so–we are ending our CMA Fest Tradition. I am incredibly sad because this festival is very near and dear to my heart. It is disheartening to see what CMA Fest has turned into. A lot of money goes into CMA Fest for its attendees: traveling to Nashville, 4-day tickets, meals, and lodging for five days; we are excited to spend it elsewhere.
Whether you contacted us via email or by commenting on our articles, we have LOVED answering all of your CMA Fest questions! We are honored that so many of you have come to us for help. I will miss answering your CMA Fest questions in the future. Thank you for all of your support these past few years!
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Taylor Pittman Hardy wrote this article.