By Friday afternoon (April 1) in Las Vegas, rehearsals were in full force at the MGM Grand Garden Arena while stages were being constructed downtown at the Fremont Street Experience as artists and fans gear up for the 46th annual Academy of Country Music Awards . Hosted by Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton, the show will be broadcast live Sunday (April 3) at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.
It will feature performances by McEntire, Shelton, Alabama, Dierks Bentley, Ronnie Dunn, Sara Evans, Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood and entertainer of the year nominees Jason Aldean, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban. James Taylor will make a guest appearance with the Zac Brown Band.
Joining Lambert, Luke Bryan, Julianne Hough, the Judds and Chris Young as presenters are Celine Dion, actress Reese Witherspoon, actors Robert Pattinson (Twilight) and Chace Crawford (Gossip Girl) and television personalities Nancy O’Dell and Ryan Seacrest. Championship surfer Bethany Hamilton, whose inspirational story about overcoming a shark attack is the basis for the new movie, Soul Surfer, will also serve as a presenter, along with actress AnnaSophia Robb, who portrays Hamilton in the film.
Taking place simultaneously with the awards show, Sugarland will headline the first-ever ACM Fan Jam at the nearby Mandalay Bay Events Center. Pop star Rihanna will perform her latest single, “California King Bed,” with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles for a segment running as part of the ACM Awards telecast. Other Fan Jam performers include Eric Church, The Band Perry, Randy Houser, Little Big Town, Steel Magnolia, Laura Bell Bundy, Sarah Darling, Bradley Gaskin and Casey James.
Even before the awards show, country music will be well represented this weekend at the Fremont Street Experience. Sara Evans will headline Friday night’s free concerts sponsored by the ACM. Friday’s talent lineup includes Lee Brice, Chris Young, Brett Eldredge, Casey James and Sarah Darling. On Saturday, Ronnie Dunn will be making one of his first appearances since Brooks & Dunn disbanded last year. He’ll be headlining the free concert that also features Easton Corbin, Randy Houser, Steel Magnolia, the JaneDear Girls and Thompson Square.
Earlier Saturday, Blake Shelton will host the first-ever NRA Country/ACM Celebrity Shoot, a sporting clays competition. The event takes place at Nellis Air Force Base, where the ACM has also partnered with the USO to present a free, private concert for military personnel and their families. Shelton, Luke Bryan, Brett Eldredge, Little Big Town, Montgomery Gentry, Craig Morgan and Sunny Sweeney are scheduled to perform at the Saturday event.
No doubt, other country music artist sighting will be taking place, but one of the biggest concerts is set for Saturday when Dierks Bentley brings his tour to Mandalay Bay. He’ll be joined by Josh Thompson and Miss Willie Brown.
After an exhilarating and exhausting few days, country artists will be glad to return home — or to the tour buses that will transport them to their next gig.Check out photos and more coverage from the ACM Awards.