Las Vegas turned Nashville with a red carpet weekend that proved one thing: the Academy of Music Awards was in the city.
The final awards ceremony at the MGM Grand on Sunday night was not the only burst of country twang that got people on their feet. From free concerts to red carpet appearances fans had a weekend of nonstop country entertainment.
To kick off the ACM weekend and keep Vegas partiers in the country spirit, Fremont Street hosted a multitude of free concerts at the 1st and 3rd Street stages on both Friday and Saturday evenings. The extensive performance list included a dozen singing sensations including Sara Evans, Ronnie Dunn, Brett Eldredge, Lee Brice, the JaneDear Girls and Easton Corbin.
“This weekend is going incredible. Fremont was an awesome time, everybody was ready to kick off their weekend, everybody was throwing their hands up in the air, just having fun, singing along and that’s what it’s all about for me so Fremont was just a blast,” Said Brett Eldredge.
The free concerts packed in the crowds as Fremont Street transformed from a tourist’s jaunt in downtown Vegas into a standing room only concert arena. As I pushed my way through the crowds in an attempt to get to my place in the media pool at the edge of the stage, country fans were hooting and hollering anxiously awaiting the start of the concert lineup. Once the first song began to play and the people crowded as close as they could around the stages, snapping photos with cell phones and singing along to the songs, the performers for the evenings gave it their all to deliver the best show possible.
Fremont Street wasn’t the only host to the country icons over the weekend. Saturday, a celebrity lineup gathered at Nellis Air Force Base for a little fun with a clay shooting competition and a private concert for military troops and their families.
The day began with the NRA Country/ACM Celebrity Shoot, hosted by Blake Shelton. Celebrities lined up to lead over 15 teams of five shooters in a 13-station, 50-target sporting clays competition. Participating artists included Lee Brice, Luke Bryan, Craig Campbell, Edens Edge, Brett Eldredge, Sarah Darling, Due West, Montgomery Gentry, Andy Griggs, Gary LeVox, Justin Moore, Craig Morgan, Sunny Sweeney, Josh Thompson, Chuck Wicks and TV host Storme Warren.
“Today we got to do the ACM sporting clay shoot, and that was awesome, I didn’t hit a lot of targets but I hit some. I showed up thinking as long as I hit one, I can say I didn’t come out a looser. And I got to hang out with a lot of the troops and that was cool because those people are my heroes,” said Eldredge.
Following the Celebrity Shoot, stars headed over to the field stage set-up where hundreds of military families gathered for a free country concert to support the troops.
It was a bright and sunny day at the outdoor concert venue and the day was absolutely amazing. Country stars were more than welcome to interviews and delivered an energy packed performance that got the crowd screaming for more.
“It’s very rare that you get to sing the song to the person and to the people you wrote it for. This is the first time we’ve ever had an opportunity to sing a song about the people who wait for those deployed. We’re very excited, we’re very humbled and we’re very grateful to be here,” said Amanda Watkins, from Miss Willie Brown.
This was the second year for hosting the ACM / USO partnered event at Nellis Air Force Base.
“The troops, they’re the reason we’re so blessed to be free and blessed to be out here in a beautiful park playing music. It’s the least I can do for them allowing me to live safely every night so anytime I get a chance to perform I’m here,” said Luke Bryan.
Storme Warren, host of GAC's "Headline Country," hosted the concert and pumped up the crowd with an initial announcement of ACM’s ten thousand dollar donation to the Nellis Youth Program in the 99th Support Squadron. The crowd cheered as the oversized check was accepted and with that initial excitement, Warren wasted no time and headed right into enthusiastic introductions for the day’s performing celebrities.
“These are the most important people in our country. Only about six or seven percent of the people in this nation serve our country, that’s the crème of the crop,” Craig Morgan said. “Any time we get the opportunity to tell them how much we appreciate the scarifies that they make, as entertainers I think it’s our obligation to do that, and let them know that the civilian populous in this country support them and what it is that they’re doing.”
The multi-celebrity performance lasted for about two hours and included Luke Bryan, Brett Eldredge, Little Big Town, Miss Willie Brown, Blake Shelton, Sunny Sweeney and USO Tour veterans Montgomery Gentry and Craig Morgan.
“What’s so special about this is that people that serve our country so diligently and well and here to let loose and celebrate being together like this. It’s so beautiful to see, it’s really wonderful to see all these families together like this it’s really what it’s all about,” said Phillip Sweet of Little Big Town.
From Nellis to Fremont Street, over eight hours of country outings and concerts, but the day was not yet complete. Saturday evening, the Bank at Bellagio and Sara Evans, hosted a red carpet lineup featuring all the stars from throughout the day, for a private party that gave country stars a chance to hang out and ‘get down’ to some Vegas beats.
Included in the multi-star red carpet walk was Chris Young, Brett Eldredge, Carter’s Chord, Eric Church, The Dirt Drifters, Josh Kelley, Sara Darling, Casey James, Steel Magnolia, Troy Olsen, The Band Perry and Rascal Flatts members Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus.
“What makes the awards so big to me is seeing a lot of the artists. We get to catch up a bit ‘cause mostly on the road your passing by at night and you don’t really get to see each, so when you get there, you get to tell them stories about what happened on the road and get to catch up with them a little bit and actually try to put a pen down and maybe try to write something,” said Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry.