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The new fan fair

Country Standard Time Editorial, September 2001

Fan Fair circa 2001 apparently has survived the move from the fairgrounds to the downtown area.

The Country Music Association, organizers of the annual event billed as the largest country music festival anywhere, claim the four-day event in June attracted an aggregate attendance of 124,000, more than any other year.

That actually should be no surprise due to the inclusion of free events and single-day tickets being sold.

However, the number is a bit imprecise since it includes estimates of attendance at free shows, such as one featuring Billy Gilman and Jessica Andrews.

And comparing to previous years also was difficult because this year's version was comprised of different events and ways of selling tickets. While full-fledged four day passes existed again this year, single day tickets also were sold. The CMA unfortunately did not release the amount of four-day passes sold, which may have given a better year-to-year comparison.

Next year should give be far easier to compare.

Moving beyond the numbers, the complaints were familiar ones: not enough stars attending with folks like Reba on Broadway and Brooks & Dunn on tour and the logistical difficulty of going from event to event despite shuttle buses.

Some also complained that they were not able to get so close to the stars. At the fairgrounds, attendees could wait and watch their favorite singer go around in golf carts. That was not the case in the downtown area where golf carts was not the preferred method of transportation.

The autograph hunt was ever popular, though this year fans got to wait in air conditioned quarters instead of the hot sun.

Let's face it. Given that this was the first year of something new, Fan Fair was guaranteed not to be an unadulterated success. Give credit to the CMA for taking the bull by the horns and making changes to what was in danger of becoming a dinosaur.

Fan Fair still may become one, but it won't be because the CMA is sitting on its hands, not listening to fans and willing to make changes.