Fan Fair 2001 Will Gain Space, Lose Intimacy

To be located in three Nashville venues and held over a weekend (June 14-17), Fan Fair 2001 will bear little resemblance to its 29 cozier, one-site predecessors. Next year’s event will use the cavernous 67,000-seat Adelphia Coliseum for its main stage concerts and the downtown Nashville Convention Center for artist and exhibit booths. The Tennessee State Fairgrounds, which has been the Fan Fair location since 1982, will be used as a campground, with shuttles taking ticket-holders from there to the other sites.

The Country Music Association announced the new locations today (July 21) following adjournment of the group’s quarterly board meeting.

The CMA has yet to settle on a ticket price for the 2001 event, according to Fan Fair committee co-chairman Tony Conway. He said the CMA was considering offering fans one, two, three and four-day tickets. The new locations are locked in by contract for the next five years, Conway said, with options for two additional five-year terms.

Ed Benson, the CMA’s executive director, told reporters that his organization’s aim is to “reinvigorate and reinvent this event.” During the early 1990s, Fan Fair sold out its 24,000 fairgrounds capacity by late winter. But in the past few years, ticket sales have been slower, although this year’s edition drew a respectable 21,627 visitors.

Metro (Nashville) councilman Ludye Wallace and councilman-at-large Leo Waters presented Benson an official resolution in praise of Fan Fair’s impact on the city. It said, among other things, that the event had brought in nearly $180 million to Nashville and Davidson County during its 29-year history and about $10 million this year.

There had been some discussion of moving Fan Fair out of the Nashville area, possibly to an adjoining county. This economic threat clearly energized Music City’s political and commercial leaders to lobby the CMA to stay in town.

Conway called the new plan “a concept that hasn’t happened before,” and added, “It will give both fans and artists the best of both worlds.” John Bridges, Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell’s representative for cultural affairs, said Fan Fair should become Nashville’s “signature downtown summer-time event.” He promised a “more intimate partnership” between the city and the music industry than has existed before.

Many of the details that will shape next year’s Fan Fair have yet to be worked out Benson and the others said. On hand for the announcement were the top executives from the Nashville Chamber of Commerce.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to