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: Sonicnet.com 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

Middleman, Johnny Staats

and the Wilkinsons. Atlantic

performers included Confederate

Railroad, John Michael

Montgomery, 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

Cochran, Billy Ray Cyrus

— who in 1992 first wowed a Fan Fair crowd with his massive debut

hit, "Achy Breaky Heart" (

HREF="http://www.sonicnet.com/artists/clip.cgi?track=%7Egg-XXXXXX%2F0039

312_0102_00_0002.ra">RealAudio excerpt) —

COLOR="#003163">Joe Diffie, Wade

Hayes, Ty Herndon, the

Kinleys,

COLOR="#003163">Danni Leigh,

COLOR="#003163">Montgomery Gentry,

COLOR="#003163">Collin Ray,

COLOR="#003163">Ricochet and Yankee

Grey.

Ancillary events going on and around Fan Fair all week are many and

varied, with artists such as Gretchen

Peters 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

Chapman, Lyric Street's new gold-selling female country trio

SheDaisy, singer/songwriter and

producer Randy Scruggs and

all-around music legend Tony Joe

White, 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

Gill 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

Brandt, Lynn Anderson,

David Ball,

COLOR="#003163">Jeff Carson, Eric

Heatherly, Paul

Overstreet, Michael

Peterson, Blake Shelton,

Sisters Wade, and

COLOR="#003163">Wild Horses.