SATURDAY, JUNE 13
This was our first really hot day of the fest. Boaters were out in force on the Cumberland behind the Riverfront Stage, and kids were frolicking in the Metro Courthouse fountains.
I took Miss Mary with me downtown. “Don’t walk too fast,” she implored. I laughed: “Don’t worry: There are so many people on the streets that you CAN’T walk fast.” And so there were.
In the Sports Zone, we shared the love with the Frisbee dogs. Tracy Byrd was autographing in the Opry Originals gift shop on Broadway that afternoon. Rock performer/producer Roger Nichols was tooling around on his golf cart on 1st Avenue South as the self-proclaimed “Parking Nazi.” He doesn’t mind telling even the biggest country stars where they can and cannot stow their vehicles.
This year, the opening acts each day at Riverfront got 45-minute sets. The rest of the day’s artists did 30 minutes, which is also an increase over previous years. The result was fewer artists clustered in that area of the festival with more to spread around to the Sommet stage, the Hard Rock stage, the Metro Courthouse stage and the Acoustic Corner in the Convention Center. Anyhow, when I was down there boat spotting, Emerson Drive was pleasing everyone with “Moments.” Lorrie Morgan followed. Excellent popster Jeremy Lister was booked for a late-afternoon Courthouse appearance.
Up in the Acoustic Corner, Billy Gilman had to cancel his performance because his grandmother died. As a result, John Arthur Martinez was given a double-long set, so that the rest of the schedule wouldn’t be disrupted.
Chris Young, Doug Stone, Jimmy Kish “The Flying Cowboy,” Ty Herndon, Billy Dean, Rachel Williams, TelluRide, Steve Azar, Mustang Creek, Jeff Allen and Joe Nichols were autographing downstairs in the Convention Center. This portion of the festival is still called Fan Fair.
Sommet stage afternoon highlights included Holly Williams, Cowboy Crush and Jonathan Singleton & The Grove. The Family Zone hosted Martina’s annual YWCA Celebrity Auction. Sara Evans was the Q&A attraction in the smaller tent. Sarah Johns, Julia Barton, Deborah Allen and the Pistol trio kept the Hard Rock testosterone free for the first part of the afternoon. Up at Buddy Killen Circle, the Dan McGuiness Irish Pub was rocking to the sounds of the Collin Raye fan club party late in the day.
That evening at LP Field, Josh Turner turned in a terrific, hit-packed set that concluded with “Long Black Train” and “Would You Go with Me.” Leave it to gifted Jamey Johnson’s chutzpah to kick off his show with a lyric that mentions “cocaine and a whore.” His superb, three-song segment had “In Color” as its finale. Jason Michael Carroll did an acoustic set, followed by the luminous Lee Ann Womack, who left us with a swinging “San Antonio Rose.”
Wynonna’s powerful voice tackled everything from Merle Haggard’s “Are the Good Times Really Over” to Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is.” The audience came apart when mama Naomi Judd pranced out for a medley of hits made famous by The Judds. The duo was celebrating its 25th anniversary at the fest. Naomi wiped away tears. They hugged and kissed. Everyone cheered wildly.
For his finale, Trace Adkins took off his cowboy hat, let his long locks fly and brought out a gospel choir to accompany him on “Muddy Water.” He stayed in that righteous mode with the choir on a surprisingly countrified version of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.” Angelic voiced Martina McBride closed out the evening.
Working the hospitality suite were Tim Wipperman, Schatzi Hageman, Jim Rink, Will Rambeaux, Vernell Hackett, Peter Cooper, Allen Brown, Police Chief Ronald Serpas, Lori Badgett, Jason Morris, Michelle Honick, John Styll, Liz Cavanaugh, Ed Salamon, Ed Benson, Brandi Simms, Aaron Hartley and J. Horton Frank.