NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After three years, Nashville's biggest party weekend is here.
Country music fans from every state in the nation and across the globe will be in Music City for CMA Fest.
The live performances kick off every morning at 10 a.m. and the party only gets bigger throughout the day into the night. There are four free stages around Lower Broadway and two in the Music City Center, along with the main stage at Nissan Stadium.
Tens of thousands of fans will flock to the downtown area, so be sure to plan ahead.
The festival also brings a great economic boost to Middle Tennessee. In 2019, CMA Fest brought in $65 million in visitor spending.
People have been anxiously awaiting CMA Fest's return. While the festival wasn't held in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19, 70% of ticket holders from 2020 held on to their tickets for its big return this year.
The performers are also ecstatic to be back on stage. NewsChannel 5's Aaron Cantrell got the chance to speak with a handful of artists slated to perform on Thursday and Friday.
Alex Hall will be performing on Thursday at 1:25 p.m. on the Maui Jim Reverb Stage. Following his performance, he'll be at Fan Fair X for the CMA Meet & Great at 2:30 p.m.
"I'm so excited. It's my first official CMA Fest that I've been able to do. It's fun that it's back. I'm sure country music fans are happy that it's back. It's going to be a good time," Hall said.
Hall said he fell in love with music at the age of 14, and would even fall asleep with his guitar. Hall made his Opry debut last year.
Tiera Kennedy is performing Thursday on the Chevy Vibes Stage at 4:15 p.m. She'll be at Fan Fair X for the CMA Meet & Greet before her performance at 10:30 a.m.
Kennedy made her Opry debut in January 2022. She's preparing to release her new single "Founded In You" later this month. It will be her first song on country radio.
"I feel very excited. I think everyone has been waiting for CMA Fest to come back. It's the best weekend ever for fans and artists. I can't wait to get out in front of all the fans and play my songs," she said.
Tigirlily will be performing on Thursday at 11:10 a.m. on the Maui Jim Reverb Stage. You can also find them at Fan Fair X for the CMA Meet & Greet after their performance at 12:30 p.m. Then on Friday, they will be at the Roper booth at Fan Fair X at 1 p.m.
Sisters Kendra and Krista, from North Dakota, moved to Nashville in 2017. The pair performed at bars across Nashville and eventually landed a weekly residence at Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row.
"This is our first official CMA Fest, so we're still checking things off the bucket list. It's just a really cool moment for us to share here today in Nashville. Looking back, it's like, this is why we moved here," Kendra said.
Ray Fulcher will perform Thursday at 4:05 p.m. on the Maui Jim Reverb Stage. Before his show, he'll be at Fan Fair X for the CMA Meet & Greet at 12 p.m.
Fulcher said he was inspired by Eric Church, saying at the age of 21, he left a Church concert and bought a guitar.
"I remember the night that I saw Eric for the first time, it inspired me to pick up a guitar, how inspired I felt and how moved I was. For me, the whole goal was to be on the other side of that and for me to move people the way that I was moved that night," he said.
Fulcher performed at the Opry for the first time last summer. His debut album "Spray Painted Line" will be released on Friday.
Chase Matthew will be on the Dr Pepper Amp Stage Thursday at 3:30 p.m. Earlier in the day, you can find him at Fan Fair X for the CMA Meet & Greet at 11:30 a.m.
The Tennessee native went from being an ATV mechanic to a viral sensation. Matthew said he always dreamed of having a music career, and was encouraged and supported by his family over the years.
"I never thought in a million years that me and my family and everyone would be as blessed as we are today, especially off of a dream that I've had for my whole life," Matthew said. "It's definitely surreal to be here."
Matthew is the first artist under Holler Roy Records, which was launched last summer by country artist Ryan Upchurch. He released his debut album "Born For This" in February.
Lily Rose will be performing Thursday at 2 p.m. on the Chevy Vibes Stage. Fans can also catch her on Friday at 9:05 p.m. at Nissan Stadium.
"The coolest part about CMA Fest is all of the artists that you hear on the radio are mostly free shows. To get to give this to the fans is the best thing," she said.
Her career took off after her song "Villain" went viral on TikTok in 2020. She was nominated for ACM's Best New Female Artist in 20202 and recognized as Outstanding Breakthrough Artist at the 2022 GLAAD Media Awards.
Rose is dropping her new single "I'd Be You" on Friday.
Roman Alexander will be performing Friday at 11:25 a.m. on the Maui Jim Reverb Stage.
"It’s my first time actually not going just as a fan. I’ll always be a fan of this festival. It’s amazing what it does for the city but to be here as an artist is something special," he said.
Alexander will be touring with Sam Hunt this July.
Avery Anna is performing on Friday at 3:35 p.m. on the Maui Jim Reverb Stage.
Her TikTok videos performing in a bathtub for the acoustics quickly became a viral sensation. She now has more than 1.3 million followers and nearly 25 million likes.
Hannah Ellis is performing Friday at 11 a.m. on the Chevy Vibes Stage.
"I’m so happy that [CMA Fest] is back. It’s truly one of my favorite weeks of the year," she said. "I got to go on tour with Carly Pearce earlier this year so it was so much fun to get out there on the road, but having everyone here in Nashville, in Music City, together again… fantastic."
Ellis, a native Kentuckian, made her Opry debut last year.
Dalton Dover is performing on Friday at 12:30 p.m. on the Chevy Vibes Stage.
Nicknamed "Double D," Dover moved to Nashville from a small Georgia town. During his appearance on season 16 of "The Voice," he earned a chair turn from veteran coach Blake Shelton with his rendition of Keith Whitley's "Don't Close Your Eyes."
Dover will be opening for Luke Combs this July in Atlanta.