Rushing Crowds and Patriotic Reflections at Fan Fair Hall

“This is wild. It’s like the running of the bulls,” Johnny Graham, an employee of Brantley Security Services, said as he surveyed the crowd in the Nashville Convention Center. It was 8:30 AM on a Friday, and the place was packed.

Hundreds of Country Music fans had camped outside the Convention Center overnight, waiting for a chance to get an autograph in Fan Fair Hall on June 10.

Lucinda Carrington, a 15-year-old from Parsons, Tenn., said she didn’t sleep at all the night before because she was so excited to meet Rascal Flatts. It was her second year at CMA Fest but her first time pulling an all-nighter, and she’d do it again in a heartbeat.

“They probably won’t,” she said, motioning to her parents. “But I definitely will.”

Everybody in line seemed to share Carrington’s hard-core devotion to a favorite artist. When Nashville Convention Center staffer Bill Dyce cut the tape barrier holding back the crowds at 10 AM but asked everyone in line not to move yet, one man began to stretch his calves as if he were about to run a 100-yard dash — which, in essence, he was.

Even the vendors inside the Convention Center got into the spirit. “Go, go, go!” they cheered, and the crowd obliged, streaming through three sets of doors faster than a swarm of cicadas.

At the Jack Daniel’s booth, Mark Day and several of his co-workers were waiting for Craig Morgan’s autograph signing. The company also organizes a “Toast to the Troops” care package drive, and Morgan, an Army veteran, has been there every step of the way.

“He’s a wonderful guy,” said Day. “We’ve done 14 [drives], and he’s done them all.”

Women shrieked when Morgan peeked through the curtain separating him from the fans, but one of the first in his line was more interested in his patriotism than his good looks.

Angie DeRosa moved to Lodi, N.J., less than 20 miles away from Ground Zero, about a month before 9/11. “Just to be able to see someone that supports our freedom so die-hard, it’s awesome,” DeRosa said.  “He’s done so much in supporting the troops overseas and supporting them at home, and that means a lot to us.”

With that, DeRosa disappeared back into the massive throngs of people circulating through the hall, leaving behind a reminder that there’s more to an artist than a glossy 8-by-10.

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