"Fan Fair" -- nowadays called CMA Music Festival -- has happened yearly in Music City USA (aka Nashville, Tenn.) since 1972. I recently learned that grand Ole Opry and Opryland exec Bud Wendell came up with the idea. He considered that such a festival would draw more folk (particularly from out of state) to the city and its new theme park. The first time we lived in Nashville I learned early on that lots of native Nashvillians disliked Fan Fair, because of the traffic snarls & gridlock it engendered. But by the time I began working at Opryland such antipathy seemed to have faded away.
After all, Fan Fair was bringing in plenty of dollars along with the tourists, and was becoming a great expression of the community as Music City USA.
I myself didn't participate in Fan Fair until last year. By that time it had a new name and had moved from the State Fairgrounds back to downtown where Mr. Wendell had started it.
Honestly, in Ought Nine I didn't participate much in the annual festivity. I remember trying in vain to get to the plaza at Fifth and Broad outside the then Sommet Center (now Bridgestone Arena) at the time Rhonda Vincent was scheduled to perform. When I got there and was told that yes, she'd just finished performing, I wandered disconsolately up the hill past nearby Ryman Auditorium. And stumbled onto the "guitars of the stars" auction being conducted by WSM's Bill Cody and country star Steve Wariner. I paused, to enjoy the auctioning of Vince Gill's guitar, the back of which was decked out like tiny golf greens. (Vince's second love is golfing; Amy comes in third --LOL.) At another time during Fan Fair '09 I stopped into the famous (the original) Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Lower Broad across from Tootsie's, while WSM was broadcasting live from there as part of Fan Fair. (Funny, I don't remember what artist was performing, jsut that Charlie Mattos was handling the airwaves chores.)
This year I intended to participate a bit more in Fan Fair. It didn't happen, but still Thursday of last week I got in one memorable hour "playing hooky" from work to attend the festivity and "play fan".
I drove my ice cream truck to the Fan Fair area, looking in vain for a parking place near the plaza outside the Bridgestone Arena. While cruising by I got to hear the Opry's "grand lady" Jeannie Seely singing on the Chevy Stage there. Once I got the truck parked a few blocks away I "hot-footed" it down hot-asphalt Fourth Ave. in the hot-sunshine afternoon. Jeannie was already finished singing, but turned out she was emcee for the rest of this "Classic Country" show featuring Lynn Anderson, Gene Watson, Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius.
Between Jeannie's sets on stage I was able to get her attention and thank her for the inspiring positive spirit she has shown since the Great Flood. Shortly afterward, I went inside the arena and acquired some Fan Fair literature, including a sheet with the day's schedule and a fair sized white space just above the "Classic Country" line-up. and I proceeded to play "Fan Fair fan" to the hilt, getting Jeannie's autograph!
I got to hear live performances only on that bit of Jeannie Seely I'd heard while seeking parking, Lynn Anderson's final song, all of Gene Watson's set and Jim Ed's opening song. That, BTW, was his "signature song": "Pop a Top Again". But I knew I needed to get back to cruising neighborhoods earning a living selling ice cream. So I strolled on back to the truck. Since I had to pass the Country Music Hall of Fame on my way, I entered just to see if anything special was happening. Well, turned out that they were taking a survey just outside the souvenir shop. I filled out a form, and as reward received a CMHoFaM key chain. This doesn't have ANY allusion to or connection with Fan Fair, but I'm going to treat it as MY Fan Fair souvenir for 2010!
Yes, dear reader, yours truly was making himself as much a country music fan as I could for this year's music fest in Music City USA! At elast for about an hour; too bad other plans fell thru. We shall see how much further I get to go in being a fan at Fan Fair 2011. . . .