CMA Fest sees changes over four decades - WSMV News 4

CMA Fest sees changes over four decades

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Thousands of fans packed the Riverfront Stage on Thursday. (WSMV) Thousands of fans packed the Riverfront Stage on Thursday. (WSMV)

CMA Fest was born 44 years ago. Back then it was called Fan Fair.

For better or worse, the massive music party has changed a lot over the past four decades.

It went from just 5,000 fans in 1972 to more than 80,000 fans today.

Meet and greets used to take place at the fairgrounds. Current superstars were just getting their start.

“I remember when Garth Brooks couldn't get anyone to come to his booth. That’s how old I am,” said Tracy McDonald, a festivalgoer.

A lot has changed since then, including the name.

“We still call it Fan Fair. We refuse to call it CMA Fest,” McDonald said.

Some who first came to CMA Fest as fans are now artists.

“When I came it was at the convention center and I came to see Billy Dean and I got to,” said country music singer Ashley Monroe.

Performers like Monroe say the bigger the better.

“You must be doing something right if people want to come to your town,” Monroe said.

But what's the cost to come here?

A decade ago, attendees could get a downtown Nashville hotel for the festival for under $200. Those prices have more than doubled, in some cases tripled, since.

Many booked their hotels well in advance.

“It was hard to swallow a year ago, but now that we are here it's all good,” one fan said.

The style of music has also changed.

“Some of my friends had jokingly said, ‘When’s the country music start?’” McDonald said.

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