Fan Fair Report #1: Gala Weekend Launches Nashville’s Fan Fair

Grand Ole Opry celebrates 75th birthday in conjunction with fan gala.

[Editor’s Note: reporters are on-site to cover the 28th annual edition of Fan Fair, the unique four-day event in which country fans get to mingle with their favorite artists. The nonstop outdoor festival and autograph session runs Monday through Thursday.]

Country Editor Chet Flippo reports:

NASHVILLE — The love fest between fans and country-music
stars officially got under way Monday (June 12), after a weekend of
star-studded preliminary events.

The four-day series of all-day concerts by major country stars as well
as newcomers began Monday morning, with group COLOR="#003163">Diamond Rio singing the national anthem at
the Fan Fair site, the Tennessee State Fairgrounds.

Roughly 22,000 country fans poured into the grounds as the exhibit halls
opened — revealing everything from the decorated autograph booths
of the country artists, to the exhibits of corporate sponsors, to the
facilities of the 600-plus media outlets cranking out a continual stream
of reports and updates.

Artists, Artists, Everywhere

The music got under way Monday with the Giant Records and Atlantic
Records show, which ran from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Giant Records offered
artists Keith Harling, COLOR="#003163">Neal McCoy, Georgia
, Johnny Staats
and the Wilkinsons. Atlantic
performers included Confederate
, John Michael
, Craig Morgan,
and SouthSixtyFive.

Next, from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., it was Warner Bros., Reprise, and Asylum
Records’ turn to parade their stable of artists, including COLOR="#003163">Chad Brock — who notched his first #1
Billboard hit this week, with “Yes!” — COLOR="#003163">Anita Cochran, COLOR="#003163">Chalee Tennison, COLOR="#003163">Bryan White and other guests who had yet to
be announced.

Highlighting the evening was the 7 p.m.–10 p.m. Sony Music
Nashville show, featuring the debut in that city of 12-year-old
sensation Billy Gilman. Other
artists scheduled for the Sony show on Monday are COLOR="#003163">John Anderson, Tammy
, Billy Ray Cyrus
— who in 1992 first wowed a Fan Fair crowd with his massive debut
hit, “Achy Breaky Heart” ( HREF="
312_0102_00_0002.ra">RealAudio excerpt
) — COLOR="#003163">Joe Diffie, Wade
, Ty Herndon, the
Kinleys, COLOR="#003163">Danni Leigh, COLOR="#003163">Montgomery Gentry, COLOR="#003163">Collin Ray, COLOR="#003163">Ricochet and Yankee

Ancillary events going on and around Fan Fair all week are many and
varied, with artists such as Gretchen
and Ronnie Milsap
popping up.

Friday evening saw one of a remarkable series of shows scheduled around
Fan Fair when the Nashville Independent Film Festival (which scheduled
its events to mesh with Fan Fair’s dates) presented a unique lineup in
an intimate restaurant/bar. Performing were COLOR="#003163">Raul Malo of the COLOR="#003163">Mavericks, singer/songwriter Peters, prolific
singer/songwriter Guy Clark,
Christian-music superstar Steven Curtis
, Lyric Street’s new gold-selling female country trio
SheDaisy, singer/songwriter and
producer Randy Scruggs and
all-around music legend Tony Joe
, who was the subject of a documentary at the fest.

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott — in town
to play two shows and attend the premiere of a documentary about him
made by his daughter — was in the audience, and when patrons in the
bar area began talking loudly during Clark’s set, Elliott ran into the
bar, armed with plenty of admonition: “You must listen! This is what
it’s all about!” exclaimed the 68-year-old legend. They shut up.

The Opry Celebrates 75

On Saturday night, the Grand Ole Opry kicked off the celebration of its
75th anniversary by unveiling its brand-new stage at the Grand Ole Opry
House. The redesign of the Opry’s barn set is the first in 22 years; the
updated version features enhanced lighting and multiple video screens.
The old set will be retired to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Sunday’s official opening event was the City of Hope benefit softball
game, with Milsap, who is blind, serving as umpire for a game that
offered celebrity softballers such as Vince
and Deana Carter.

“Fun Fest 2000,” at the Ryman Auditorium on Sunday night, was the annual
showcase by IFCO — the International Fan Club Organization —
which coordinates the many fan-club activities during the week. The show
was hosted by Charlie Daniels, with
special guest Carolyn Corlew.
Artists performing at the Ryman were the COLOR="#003163">Bellamy Brothers, COLOR="#003163">John Berry, Paul
, Lynn Anderson,
David Ball, COLOR="#003163">Jeff Carson, Eric
, Paul
, Michael
, Blake Shelton,
Sisters Wade, and COLOR="#003163">Wild Horses.