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HOT DISH: It Used to Be Called Fan Fair
CMA Music Festival Is a One-of-a-Kind Event for Country Music Stars and Fans
(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.)

As I was being driven through downtown Nashville where the beautiful country music fans were lined up last week at the Wildhorse Saloon and the Ryman Auditorium and any number of fan club parties and concerts taking place all over town, I just wished I could get in the middle of the crowd and walk around. Maybe next year.

They call it the CMA Music Festival, the biggest country music fan event in the world, where thousands and thousands of fans parade the streets of Music Town in hopes of getting a photo and a handshake with their favorite star. And most of them are lucky enough to have that happen during the event that most of us still refer to as Fan Fair. Only in country music is this done. Only the hardcore fans who follow their favorites all over the country attend the event.

To me, the real stars of the week are the fans. This is their event. They save their money just so they can come to this glorious event every year. And they spend money, too. My grandson, Jeremy, told me there was a bevy of Australian fans who toured the wonderful Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum before stopping by the gift shop and spending $200-$300 each for CDs they could not buy in their home country.

Fan club parties were taking place all over town during the CMA Music festival, and many artists were also at the Nashville Convention Center to sign autographs. Can you imagine the major rock acts having a fan club party or showing up in a booth in a huge exhibit hall just to sign autographs? Only in country music do lucky fans have this sort of one-on-one relationship with the stars.

A Kenny Chesney Souvenir -- His Old Phone Number

My clever friend, Beverly Keel, covers news for The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville. She's forever coming up with contest ideas, and the week before the CMA Music Festival, the prize was two tickets to the event. Readers were asked to share their most unusual personal experiences involving country music stars.

Prize winner Shelley Devereaux and her family moved back to the Nashville area several years ago after living in Knoxville, Tenn. As it turned out, the new phone number issued to them previously belonged to none other than Kenny Chesney. Of course, even after Kenny got a new phone number, the Devereauxs continued to get late night phone calls from various females on a regular basis. One girl even called from the islands hoping to "hook up" with Kenny at his next concert.

One of the calls was a good one, though. After the Chesney-Zellweger nuptials in 2005, Keith Urban phoned and started his conversation with a laugh, saying, "Hello, darling. This is Keith Urban calling." The Devereauxs still get those calls -- the ones they refer to as "Kenny calls" -- but Keith apparently has Kenny's current number. At least he's not calling the Devereauxs anymore.

Kenny Chesney's New Single Is One of His Best Ever

Speaking of Kenny Chesney, when I read the lyrics of his new single, "Never Wanted Nothing More," I got chills and asked my grandson to put the CD in the player. (See, I know how to play vinyl albums. But for some reason, a machine where you push buttons and get perfect sound is just too 2007 for me.)

Anyway, it only took one spin. I was dancing and screaming, and so is America. This could be Kenny's biggest single since "The Good Stuff." It hit the country singles chart at No. 37 in its first week out the slot. You go, Ronnie Bowman and Chris Stapleton, who wrote the song.

Plenty of Good News

Martina McBride is set to open this year's Macy's Fourth of July Spectacular with her hit single, "Anyway." The special will air on NBC-TV.

Toby Keith will be inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in November during a banquet in Oklahoma City.

One of the perks for bluegrass acts appearing in Branson, Mo., is that the musicians are encouraged to bring along their kids. Such was the case for the Grascals. Since his wife couldn't take off from her new job, my son, Terry, traveled to Branson with 8-year old Trevor and 13-year-old Tara, a real beauty who actually looks 16. The 11-year-old son of another musician got a huge crush on Tara while they were in Branson. After following her around for quite some time, he finally said, "Tara, I hope you know CPR -- 'cause you take my breath away." OK, songwriters, remember where you got this line.

Ricky Skaggs, wife Sharon White Skaggs and former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist and his wife recently flew with the Rev. Franklin Graham in a private jet to Montreat, N.C., where they attended a dinner with Dr. Billy Graham, his family and other notables. Skaggs performed following the dinner and then again the next day during the dedication ceremonies for the Billy Graham Library.

Toby Keith's new CD, Big Dog Daddy, is on my desk! Toby says he named a Ford truck Big Dog Daddy -- and that's where the song and album title came from. Interesting.

Jason Aldean sold almost 100,000 copies of his sophomore album, Relentless, to top the country chart on its first week out. Congratulations to Jason and Broken Bow Records.

Just so you know, DJ Debonair will be spinning turntables during Keith Urban's U.S. tour from the moment the first fan arrives until the Wreckers take the stage to open the show.

Trace Adkins and Jo Dee Messina will perform at a dinner for President Bush on Wednesday (June 13) at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. During the dinner, Republicans are expected to raise $7.5 million for upcoming election campaigns. Jo Dee co-produced her next single, "Biker Chick," with Keith Urban's longtime bass player, Jerry Flowers.

Don't miss Marty Stuart's excellent exhibit at the Tennessee State Museum and photographer Jim McGuire's wonderful portraits at the Frist Center. Both exhibits are now underway in Nashville.

Bill Anderson was busy signing autographs Thursday (June 7) at his fan club booth at the CMA Music Festival. He's had a booth for 35 years -- ever since the event began in 1972 as Fan Fair.

Thanks, fans. I love each and every one of you, and please come back next year for an even bigger and better CMA Music Festival in downtown Music City.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week:

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Plain Cake.
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