Monday, October 2, 2023

6 CMA Festival takeaways to remember for next year


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Photos by Tayhlor Stephenson / Assistant Lifestyles Editor

The 2017 Country Music Association Music Festival is a wrap, but the millions of memories, some good and some not-so-good, made at the festival will continue to live on. Whether you’re a CMA Festival newbie or have been attending since the very beginning, every year there is always something to be learned at the end of country music’s world-famous four-day weekend.

Follow the recommendations below, and you’ll be all set for CMA Fest 2018.

CMA Fest 2017 hosts fans by the thousands. (Tayhlor Stephenson / Sidelines)

It’s a well-known fact that festivals draw enormous crowds, and CMA Fest is no exception to that. No matter what venue you plan to attend or what time you plan to arrive, there will be a crowd to suffer through. It’s part of the fest’s package, and the sooner everyone acknowledges the unavoidable crowds at CMA Festival, the better off everyone will be.

So, don’t fight the crowds; instead, embrace them. Understand that the thousands of people surrounding you all share your same interests in good ol’ country music. Talk to your neighbors and form lasting friendships. This is the south, show some hospitality.


Kelleigh Bannen, Natalie Stovall and Ruthie Collins play a free show at Ascend Amphitheater Friday night. (Tayhlor Stephenson / Sidelines)

It’s easy to become awestruck over the big-named artists set to play each fest, but the lesser-known names shouldn’t be overlooked. Sometimes, more often than not, actually, these are the artists that have the most to offer. Artists with impressive vocals, multi-instrumental talents and rocking stage presences are awaiting you. Take the time to listen.

It’s not even necessary to search these artists out, they’re practically everywhere at CMA Fest. Next year, identify an unfamiliar name on the lineup, and go see them perform. You may be surprised by their talent.


The Budweiser Forever Country Stage provides quality and comfort at CMA Fest. (Tayhlor Stephenson / Sidelines)

Fans come from all over the world for CMA Fest, not just from south of the Mason-Dixon line. This means the number of stages are sure to continue growing, too. This year the Budweiser Forever Country Stage was one of the hot spots to listen to live music, and understandably so. With Cracker Barrel rockers scattered throughout the lawn, fans were welcomed to relax and enjoy a sweet lineup of performers.

Artists such as Tracy Lawrence, Lonestar and Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers all took the Budweiser Forever Country Stage, and fans swayed and rocked to the music the entire time. If you missed the stage this year, add it to your calendar for CMA Fest 2018.


The Chevrolet Riverfront Stage hosts thousands of country music fans. (Tayhlor Stephenson / Sidelines)

There’s no doubt the Chevrolet Riverfront Stage is the place to be in the early hours of each day, but getting there is definitely not easy. Because of the star-studded lineup, you’re bound to find massive crowds here, and they never really die down either.

It’s easy to run away from the crowd in hopes of finding something better to do with your time, but time is best spent here. However, there’s a simple solution to this conundrum. You just have to be willing to wake up early enough to get downtown at a decent hour and claim your spot for the shows to come. You won’t be sorry after seeing stars like Brothers Osborne, Luke Combs and Brett Young perform.


Nissan Stadium sits just outside of Downtown Nashville and is home to free concerts each night. (Tayhlor Stephenson / Sidelines)

Parking is an all-around disaster for CMA Fest attendees. Spotting a vacant parking spot is difficult enough, but when that spot comes at an inflated price, you may as well forget it.

Instead of breaking the bank, find Nissan Stadium and park in one of its lots for just $25. You’ll need to walk the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge to get downtown, but taking the scenic route is worth it in this case.


Fireworks wow fans after nightly Nissan Stadium performances. (Tayhlor Stephenson / Sidelines)

The nights can grow extremely long at CMA Fest, but the firework show after each night’s performance at Nissan Stadium is nothing less than rewarding. Fit it into your 2018 schedule to view this amazing display if you’ve yet to witness it. And honestly, there’s no better spot to watch than from the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. So on your trek back to your car, take a rest to enjoy the beauty of the firework show.

Take it from a CMA Fest veteran, learn from your mistakes and missed opportunities by adding these six festivities to your 2018 to-do list. With these recommendations, your next CMA Fest is bound to be one to remember, and for all the right reasons.

Follow Tayhlor Stephenson on Twitter at @tayhlor_s. 

To contact Lifestyles Editor Wesley McIntyre, email

For more updates, follow us at, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter/Instagram at @Sidelines_Life.

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