Nashville is a magical place. The energy. The music. The hometown feel. Each summer, for one week, it somehow becomes even more magical. This week is called CMA Fest. I had the privilege to attend my first CMA Fest this year. As a girl who began her love affair with country music at a young age, this was most definitely a bucket list item. I walked into the CMA office to pick up my media credentials with a big smile on my face and trying to hold back tears. It meant so much to me to be there representing Got Country Online.

Matthew Ramsey of Old Dominion. Photo credit: Stefanie Richardson

The festival technically kicks off Thursday morning, but the fun unofficially starts on Monday with concerts around town, and the CMT awards taking place on Wednesday night. My friends and I made it over to the outdoor CMT stage and were able to see Brothers Osbourne & Kelsea Ballerini perform for the live broadcast! Like I said, the festival officially starts Thursday morning. We headed downtown early in hopes of getting a good spot at the Chevy Riverfront Stage as Old Dominion opened the festivities to an at-capacity crowd. They were not allowing people to continue to enter until those of us lucky enough to get in decided to leave. Simply due to the heat, after Old Dominion left the stage, we headed over to the Music City Center for Fan Fair X aka AIR CONDITIONING!! They had great acts at the Radio Disney Country stage, and it’s a great way to escape the heat! The Music City Stage in the visitor’s center of the Bridgestone Arena is also a great spot to enjoy a good show without the heat. We saw our Got Country friend, Livy Jeanne, blow away the crowd that filled the room.

Livy Jeanne. Photo credit: Stefanie Richardson

Another great aspect of CMA Fest is all of the fan club parties.  I clearly had to attend the family BBQ at Warner Music Nashville on Friday to see my good friend Cale Dodds. The party included acoustic performances from Dodds, Ryan Kinder, Bailey Bryan & Devin Dawson. Warner did an amazing job with this event, and the performances were beyond amazing.

L to R: Ryan Kinder, Bailey Bryan, Got Country Contributor Stefanie Richardson, Cale Dodds, Devin Dawson


New to CMA Fest this year were the nightly shows at the Ascend Amphitheater. These shows are great for the fans that either cannot afford Nissan Stadium tickets, or simply chose not to purchase them. The amphitheater shows were free, with the option to purchase the “Nash Pass” which guaranteed VIP seating. Friday night was “ladies of country night.” Performers included Danielle Bradbery, “Three Girls Rock Into a Bar” (Kelleigh Bannen, Natalie Stovall, and Ruthie Collins), Aubrie Sellers, Kellie Pickler, and Sara Evans.

Kelleigh Bannen and Ruthie Collins. Photo credit: Stefanie Richardson
Kellie Pickler. Photo credit: Stefanie Richardson


Saturday night was “Warner Sound” presented by Sirius XM The Highway and included performances from Warner Music Nashville artists – Bailey Bryan, Ryan Kinder, Cale Dodds, High Valley, Raelynn, Hunter Hayes, and Dan + Shay. The night was co-hosted by none other than Mr. Storme Warren, of The Highway, and Cale Dodds.  I cannot say enough good things about both shows, but especially the Warner artists. I’m obviously biased towards Cale Dodds, but the response from the crowd was extremely positive. Dan + Shay absolutely blew everyone away, while their insane vocals produced chills across the amphitheater. Shay Mooney, of Dan + Shay, broke down into tears after the crowd sang “From the Ground Up” back to them. It was definitely a special moment. For most of the artists, the crowd of over 7,000 was the largest to which they’ve ever played.

Dan + Shay. Photo credit: Stefanie Richardson
Cale Dodds. Photo credit: Stefanie Richardson

This year was even more interesting as the NHL Stanley Cup Finals Game 6 landed in Nashville as CMA Fest was wrapping up. Broadway became a sea of yellow shirts & jerseys, and the energy was electric. Country music fans & hockey fans came together to support the Preds in such a fun way.

The air-conditioned shows made the heat bearable. The streets & stages honestly never felt out of control. The options to see the latest up & coming acts were endless. The artists were wonderful with fans, as we’ve come to know & love in country music. I never saw any one get out of control, or any sort of fight. It appeared that everyone in town truly enjoyed this amazing event. To anyone who is a fan of country music, if you’ve never attended CMA Fest, I’m telling you now – make plans to attend in 2018! It will be an experience you’ll never forget!!

A few of my most memorable moments:



Photo credit: Stefanie Richardson

Cale Dodds climbing the truss as he closed out his performance of “People Watching” on the Chevy Park Stage.

Photo credit: Stefanie Richardson

Kellie Pickler bringing the crowd to tears as she sang “I Wonder.”  At the end where the lyrics say “From now on I won’t be in Carolina, your little girl is off to Tennessee” – Pickler added “your little girl is at the CMA Festival in Nashville, Tennessee” through her own tears as the crowd cheered.

Photo credit: Stefanie Richardson

The Sasquatch from Old Dominion’s “No Such Thing as a Broken Heart” made an appearance at their show on the Chevy Riverfront Stage.

Photo credit: Stefanie Richardson

Ryan Kinder & Friends rooftop after party sponsored by Waffle House, featuring Cale Dodds.



Stefanie Richardson

Stefanie Richardson

I was born & raised in Orlando, FL. I love living here, but my dream and goal is to be in Nashville sooner rather than later.. I grew up on country music and remember riding around in my dad’s truck singing along to Reba, The Judds, and of course King George. Pure Country was a movie that played often in our house. These days, I absolutely love following “up and coming” artists. Anyone who knows me knows that Cale Dodds is my favorite; and when he’s touring anywhere in the southeast, I’m at his show. I love everything about country music; the way artists appreciate their fan base, the loyalty the fans show their favorite performers, and how it brings people together. I can thank country music for allowing me to meet some awesome people, and some who have become dear friends.

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