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HOT DISH: A View of the CMA Music Festival
Fans Flocked to Music Town for Quality Time With Their Favorite Stars
(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel's Hot Dish: Cookin' With Country Stars, she also shares her recipes at CMT.com.)

You were here! All you fans came to see us in Nashville for the CMA Music Festival that ended Sunday (June 11). I had no idea when I went to lunch with some friends at the fancy Palm restaurant that I'd be roadblocked, but I was.

I had to park at the Hilton across from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and ride a golf cart to the restaurant! It was not a pretty sight. Leaving the Palm, I found myself in a mob of country fans lined up for the CMA block party to see Emerson Drive, Pinmonkey, Little Big Town, the LoCash Cowboys, the Grascals, the PovertyNeck Hillbillies, surprise guests Big & Rich and host Cowboy Troy.

The presence of George Jones, Little Jimmy Dickens, Porter Wagoner, Mel Tillis and Bobby Bare at the Hall of Fame's gift shop caused a stir and drew quite a crowd. The fivesome autographed the All Gone Fishin' CD.

Lonestar and friends did their part to help strike out childhood cancer. The foursome kicked off the CMA Festival with a bowling party at Hermitage Lanes to raise money and awareness for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. In addition to Lonestar, celebrities included Carrie Underwood, Jake Owen, Hot Apple Pie, Jimmy Wayne, Blue County, Rhett Akins, Buddy Jewell, Trick Pony's Ira Dean and Keith Burns and a passel more. The event drew 450 fans and raised more than $16,000.

Big & Rich donated artifacts from their collection to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and, as usual, created a mob. The popular duo held their fan club party at the Mercy Lounge.

Driving down Fourth Avenue, I was wondering if I could maneuver my 11-year-old car through the Escalades, Hummers and Lexuses when across from the Ryman I saw a line of fans five people wide from Commerce to Broadway. Someone called my name and, from the lines, I saw their hands waving and faces smiling. They were WFMS radio listeners from Indianapolis screaming my name.

"Why are you in line?" I asked.

"Dierks Bentley's fan club party at Global Cafe," several replied.

"He's good as you can get," I offered, and they agreed by offering more screams.

There was no shortage of traffic or screaming fans in Music Town during the festival. Here are some other noteworthy happenings:

Steve Wariner, Joe Nichols, Wynonna, Jack Greene, Joe Diffie, Jim Ed Brown, Jason Aldean and Tracy Byrd appeared at the Grand Ole Opry Trust Fund benefit at the Ryman Auditorium.

Trace Adkins took part in the festival, performing and signing autographs, and he also hosted his fan club party at Belcourt Theater.

Eric Church, who is on tour this summer as the opening act for Brad Paisley and Sara Evans, made his first CMA Music Festival appearance by following the Charlie Daniels Band on the Riverfront Stages.

Chris Cagle had his fan club party at the Gibson Showcase, played in the City of Hope celebrity softball game and signed autographs in the Convention Center.

Tracy Byrd and Andy Griggs hosted their fan club parties at the Wildhorse Saloon. Byrd and several other buddies attended the Griggs' annual archery tournament.

The Best People on Earth

There's always something that makes me cry when the fans come to town, and this year, it was Blake Shelton's fan club surprise. Blake turns 30 on June 18, so his fan club members showed up wearing black T-shirts while they stood in his meet-and-greet line. They also had hundreds of black balloons drop from the ceiling at Graham Central Station as they sang "Happy Birthday."

But they also presented Blake with a check for more than $3,000 written to St. Jude Children's Hospital in his honor. "This is the best fan club party ever," said Blake who was obviously quite moved.

Like I always say, I love God, my family and country music fans -- and in that order. Like those who helped out St. Jude in Blake's name, country music fans are the best people in the world.

Bryan White Returns to the Festival

For the first time in six years, Bryan White made an appearance at the CMA Music Festival. Following a musical hiatus and becoming the father of two sons, Bryan is ready to rekindle his relationship with his fans, so he appeared at Chely Wright's Reading, Writing and Rhythm benefit at the Wildhorse Saloon.

Bryan had finished his scheduled performance when a fan waved a check offering $200 if he'd sing "I'm Not Supposed to Love You Anymore." He obliged. Another fan offered $300 if he'd sing "Someone Else's Star," and he did. Finally, a lady in the balcony donated $100 for Bryan to blow her a kiss.

Wright uses the funds to purchase musical instruments for public schools that cannot afford them. I understand she took a bunch of instruments and equipment to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

Keith and Kidman

MSNBC and the New York Post report the Keith Urban-Nicole Kidman vows will take place June 25 in Sydney, Australia. Apparently, no paper invitations will be mailed, so guests will receive an e-mail and then a follow-up phone call from Keith or Kidman to tell them where to be for a limo to pick them up. The report also notes that the wedding will be after sundown to prevent overhead camera shots and that Kidman spent $300,000 reserving all the helicopters in the Sydney area to prevent paparazzi shots.

This story is getting old, but guess what? This time around, the date and place have been correctly reported. Don't even think about asking me how I know -- because I can't tell you.

Good Ol' Boys From Hazzard

"Just good ol' boys/Never meaning no harm/Beats all you never saw/Been in trouble with the law since the day they were born."

Waylon Jennings wrote and sang that.

Airing reruns, CMT had a lot to do with the continued popularity of The Dukes of Hazzard. The recent movie wasn't the hit it was hoped to be, but that's because fans want the real thing. They want Luke, Bo and Daisy Duke -- aka Tom Wopat, John Schneider and Catherine Bach. And the fans got what they wanted at CMT DukesFest 2006.

They turned out in droves -- some estimates were as high as 100,000 strong -- at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville. Representing 50 states and 12 foreign countries, they were wearing orange 01 T-shirts and ball caps in honor of the General Lee, the 1969 Dodge Charger driven by the Duke boys on the TV series. There were 107 General Lee replicas taking laps around the racetrack at the event.

I remember the days at 916 19th Avenue South on Music Row when Waylon would go upstairs in the studio and watch an episode of The Dukes. Lots of times when he'd do his dialog, he'd laugh a loud "ha!" It was the same "ha!" he added at the end of verse three of the show's theme song when he sings about his mama loving him but not understanding why they keep showing his hands -- and not his face -- on TV.

At DukesFest, color photos of the cast members went like hot cakes at $10 a pop, and autograph lines were 300-500 people long for hours. Blessed with favorable weather, fans kept watching the stars, listening to the music, eating snow cones and buying merchandise without complaint.

Waylon is gone, but I still can see his grin when he'd come down those small curving steps in the front of Tompall Glaser to announce, "Just made another nine grand," the amount they paid him per show, plus royalties, for writing the theme song. Always, he'd follow the statement with a famous "ha!"

DukesFest is the brainchild of Hazzard's shade tree mechanic, Cooter, aka Ben Jones. The sixth DukesFest, the first for Music City, was by far the most successful yet.

This 'n' That

The Cat in the Hat got a new hat rack! Terri Clark hangs her hat at BNA Records. As part of the roster, she joins Kenny Chesney, Lonestar, Pat Green, Rhett Akins, Jamey Johnson, the Lost Trailers and Blaine Larsen. I like those odds. All those boys -- and Terri.

Rushlow Harris must be a pretty hot act. Signed to Show Dog Records, the duo got a call from the label's owner -- Toby Keith -- telling them to haul it out to Vegas for the ACM Awards for him to personally introduce them to country radio programmers. He did so, and "That's So You" goes for adds on July 5. That's how it's done in Toby's world. By the way, the duo features former Little Texas frontman Tim Rushlow and his cousin, Doni Harris.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Freezer Ice Cream.
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