Fan Fair 2002 made an impressive return to Downtown Nashville, Thursday through Sunday, June 13-16, with an aggregate attendance of more than 126,500 - slightly ahead of last year's record-breaking mark - making it the biggest crowd in Fan Fair's 31-year history. Enlarging the event and improving on the successes of Fan Fair's move to Downtown Nashville in 2001, "The World's Biggest Country Music Festival" provided more activities, more stars and more music for the fans to enjoy.
"I'm happy to say it was a big success," said Ed Benson, Executive Director of CMA. "At a time when concert ticket sales are soft, we were able to hold the line and actually increase our attendance. More importantly, the improvements we made for Fan Fair 2002 were appreciated by the fans and the hundreds of artists who participated. Thanks to the breadth of activities, music and venues Fan Fair has evolved into an extraordinary, world-class musical event."

More than 40 artists participated in the star-studded nightly concerts at Adelphia Coliseum during the four days. The coliseum set up featured new state-of-the-art staging with improved sight lines and more seating. Even the traditional finale fireworks displays were bigger and better for 2002. Many of Country Music's hottest stars took to the Adelphia stage, including Trace Adkins, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Billy Ray Cyrus, Diamond Rio, Alan Jackson, George Jones, Toby Keith, Martina McBride, Jo Dee Messina, John Michael Montgomery, Rascal Flatts, Earl Scruggs, SHeDAISY, Cyndi Thomson, keith urban and Lee Ann Womack. One of the most popular elements of the nightly concerts at Fan Fair continued to be the photo line, where fans get close to the stage for shots of their favorite artists.
Country superstars Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn kicked off the nightly concerts and brought the screaming fans to their feet with the patriotic anthem "Only In America," jumpstarting the RCA Label Group show. The star-filled concert featured outstanding performances, including Alan Jackson, who ended his set with a poignant performance of "Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning," which he debuted on the CMA Awards in November 2001.

During the Sony Music show Friday, fans were thrilled when Tracy Lawrence and Joe Diffie joined Mark Chesnutt on stage for a preview of the upcoming "Rockin' Roadhouse Tour." The trio made several appearances throughout the week. Billy Ray Cyrus, star of PAX-TV's "Doc," closed the night with "Achy Breaky Heart" the signature hit he debuted at Fan Fair in 1992.
It was another star-packed night at Adelphia Coliseum, with comedian Bill Engvall hosting the WEA and EMI Show Saturday. Australian guitar slinger Keith Urban recognized Father's Day with a touching new song about his own father, "Song for Dad." Jo Dee Messina had a few surprises for the crowd, mixing hits like "I'm Alright" and "Bring on the Rain" with a medley that featured the Country classic "Stand By Your Man" and Aretha Franklin's "Think."

The final concert at Adelphia Coliseum on Sunday brought a fitting end to an action-packed week, with comedian T. Bubba Bechtol as host of the UMVD Show. Legendary banjo picker Earl Scruggs and his sons performed Scrugg's classic "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and invited Dan Tyminski to join them for "I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow." A brief downpour didn't dampen enthusiasm for Lee Ann Womack, who performed "I Hope You Dance" with people dancing in the rain. The skies cleared as Toby Keith closed the show with a robust set of his hits that kept fans on their feet until the ending fireworks.

The Greased Lightning Riverfront Park Stages, bustled with a rich array of artists from both major and independent labels, showcased a broad range of musical influences and styles from classic to alternative Country, and proved to be one of Fan Fair's favorite new venues.
The Bellamy Brothers kicked off the excitement Thursday morning and by late Sunday, more than 70 artists had performed including Sherrié Austin; Steve Azar; David Ball; Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash; Chad Brock; Lane Brody; Tracy Byrd; Jeff Carson; Kellie Coffey (who also appeared at Adelphia); Earl Thomas Conley; Rodney Crowell; David Frizzell; Andy Griggs; Eric Heatherly; Marie Sisters; McBride & The Ride; Brian McComas; Tift Merritt; Craig Morgan; David Nail; Nashville Bluegrass Band; The Oak Ridge Boys; James Otto; Lee Roy Parnell; Eddy Raven; Dan Seals; Shenandoah; Anthony Smith; Connie Smith; the reunion of Joe Stampley & Moe Bandy; Tommy Shane Steiner; Kevin Welch; Darryl Worley and Billy Yates.

A total of 445 artists appeared in the air-conditioned Exhibit Hall at the Nashville Convention Center for the autograph and photo sessions Thursday through Sunday. Fan attendance in the Hall exceeded 46,000, up 21% from last year when the Hall was only open three days.
Fans lined up early (some as early as 2:00 AM) for admittance to the Exhibit Hall in hopes of meeting their favorite Country stars. Among the artists who had long lines at their booths were Trace Adkins, Alabama, Billy Ray Cyrus, Tracy Lawrence, Rascal Flatts, Andy Griggs, Brad Paisley, Jo Dee Messina, Neal McCoy, Blake Shelton, Tommy Shane Steiner, Pam Tillis and Lee Ann Womack.
Superstar group Lonestar turned the tables on fans at the Exhibit Hall having thousands of fans do the autograph signing on a special wall in their booth. Billy Hoffman transformed his booth into an Old West Saloon, complete with barstools where his fans could sit and talk.
A wall mural with Alan Jackson riding shotgun in a Jeep with his "video" family from "Drive" adorned his booth. Bryan White invited his fans to fish in his booth, which was inspired by bait and tackle shops. At the Bush's Country Style Baked Beans booth, fans could get their photo with Jay Bush and his dog Duke and e-mail it to their family and friends.

Children of all ages enjoyed the Family Zone - a free interactive area on Broadway between First and Second Avenues in Downtown Nashville. Packed with activities for adults and children, there were free product samples and information from several Fan Fair partners including Domino's Pizza; Bush's Country Style Baked Beans; Kellogg's Cinnamon Crispix cereal; Greased Lightning Super Strength Cleaner; and Clarinex. The Coca-Cola Sega Interactive Game Truck was a hit with kids as were the inflatable rides; the Got Milk Soccer Shoot Out; the Mars Music Musical Petting Zoo (which featured a variety of instruments for kids to try); the Cracker Barrel tent with rocking chairs and checker board games; and the Food Lion-sponsored Book 'Em booth with reading projects for children.
For the second year, the PBS children's television show "Between The Lions" visited Downtown Nashville with popular puppets Cleo and her rambunctious son Lionel encouraging children to read. The program, which was sponsored by Food Lion, featured two shows at the Wildhorse Saloon with celebrity readers Neal McCoy, Tracy Lawrence and Joe Diffie. Later, Cleo and Lionel greeted kids at the Food Lion Book 'Em booth in the Fan Fair Family Zone.

On Sunday, celebrities read stories to children as part of the Food Lion Book 'Em campaign at the Hilton Park in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame in the Downtown campus. Guest readers Sherrié Austin, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Craig Morgan and Chalee Tennison sat in rocking chairs surrounded by children and read stories including The Cat In The Hat and Green Eggs and Ham.
Long after the concerts were finished at Adelphia Coliseum, the music and fun were still alive at many of Nashville's most popular downtown nightspots during Fan Fair After Hours. A dozen clubs including Buffalo Billiards, Graham Central Station, The Stage, Hard Rock Café, Legends Corner, Tootsie's Orchard Lounge and the Wildhorse Saloon hosted Fan Fair attendees for more of Nashville's best entertainment well into the night.

The first "CMT Flameworthy Video Music Awards" provided an exciting new lead in for Fan Fair 2002 with many stars, including the Dixie Chicks, who were on hand to receive the special Flameworthy Video Visionary Award. Hosted by actress Kathy Najimy, awards were presented in 12 categories for video excellence.
After the Awards, Marty Stuart hosted "Marty Stuart's Late Night Jam" at the Ryman Auditorium. The After Hours event, which also featured performance by Montgomery Gentry, Travis Tritt and several others, had fans on their feet singing and dancing until the wee hours of the morning

For the first time at Fan Fair, the "Wheel of Fortune" Wheelmobile rolled into Music City, USA in search of contestants to appear on the popular game show. The two-day auditions began Friday, June 14 at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Downtown Nashville. Participants were chosen from the audience at random to play a scaled-down version of the game, spinning a small wheel for prizes and guessing letters to complete a puzzle. Country star Pam Tillis and "Passions" star James Hyde both made a surprise visit at the auditions to cheer-on thousands of eager contestants. "Wheel of Fortune" will be back in January 2003 to tape several shows at the Grand Ole Opry House for "Country Music Stars Week."

The Fan Fair Celebrity Archery Shoot-Out Friday, June 14, scored a bulls-eye list of shooting stars. Country artists competed in the parking lot of Adelphia Coliseum. RCA recording artist Andy Griggs, who hosted the event, took the top prize with 106 points, leading his competitors to joke that it was "rigged." Other artists who participated include Tracy Byrd, Jeff Carson, Gary Levox of Rascal Flatts, Chris Marcy, Brad Paisley, Joshua Ragsdale, Blake Shelton, Rusty Tabor, Neil Thrasher and Darryl Worley.
Fan Fair Radio Partner MJI CMA's official Fan Fair radio partner MJI Programming, a division of Premiere Radio Networks, brought to Nashville some of Country Radio's top-rated stations for a four-day remote that covered the excitement of Fan Fair from the Nashville Convention Center. Among the dozens of artists who took the opportunity to visit with fans via radio were Chris Cagle, Diamond Rio, Sara Evans, Alan Jackson, Lonestar, Martina McBride, JoDee Messina, Jamie O'Neal, Brad Paisley, Cyndi Thomson, Trick Pony, Phil Vassar, Lee Ann Womack, Trisha Yearwood and many others including the NBC soap opera stars.
Stations taking part were WUSN-Chicago, WMZQ-Washington D.C., KSD-St. Louis, WFMS-Indianapolis, WCOL-Columbus, WKKT-Charlotte, WDAF-Kansas City, WSM/FM-Nashville, WGKX-Memphis, WAMZ-Louisville, WPOC-Baltimore, WQDR-Raleigh, WQYK-Tampa, WYAY-Atlanta and the syndicated radio show "After Midnight with Blair Garner."

Fan Fair Partner Ford Trucks Ford, the exclusive truck of Fan Fair, brought several programming elements to the festival this year: Two interactive displays were set up featuring cars and skill tests around the Fan Fair campus. For the first time, the Ford No Boundaries Fun Street Team was sent out throughout the Downtown footprint each day to meet with fans, answer questions and give away free souvenirs. Ford Trucks presented the Ford Legends Wall honoring those leaders in the Country Music industry who have passed away in the last year - providing a biography on each.

The Middle Tennessee Ford Dealers Association gave away a Ford Expedition on the last night of Fan Fair with the help of SHeDAISY and local radio station WSIX-FM. And each night at Adelphia Coliseum, Ford Trucks and the Country Music Hall of Fame presented trivia on the big screens as fans arrived. Ford Trucks and Outsmart joined forces with the Country Music Hall of Fame to produce two web events featuring Country artists including Montgomery Gentry and Jeff Carson.

According to Tower Records, which sold CDs at the Nashville Convention Center, Adelphia Coliseum and Greased Lightning Riverfront Park Stages, the top 10 selling artists for Fan Fair 2002 were (in order) Little Big Town, Kellie Coffey, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, Trace Adkins, Alan Jackson, Steve Azar, Brad Paisley, Sara Evans and Tommy Shane Steiner. All of these artists performed during Fan Fair., Fan Fair's official website, had 116,000 unique visitors during the first 16 days of June, with a total of 372,301 page views and 6279163 hits. The site's web cam provided more than 3,000 photos of artist performances from the evening concerts at Adelphia Coliseum over the course of four days.

Fan Fair 2003 takes place Thursday through Sunday, June 5-8 in Downtown Nashville and includes all the elements that have made Fan Fair 2002 a rousing success including Nightly Concerts in the Coliseum home of the Tennessee Titans, Daily Concerts at the Riverfront Park Stages, the "Family Zone" and the popular exhibits and autograph sessions at the Nashville Convention Center.

© 2004 Country Music & Dance Scotland