Nominees for the 51st CMA Awards celebrated their big night a little more than a week early Monday when more than 30 CMA hopefuls gathered at the Parthenon in Nashville’s Centennial Park for a celebratory dinner ahead of the Nov. 8 awards show.
Artists including entertainer of the year nominee Garth Brooks, female vocalist of the year nominee Miranda Lambert, male vocalist of the year nominee Dierks Bentley, group of the year nominee Little Big Town, single of the year nominee Jon Pardi and duo of the year nominee LoCash joined a host of songwriters and music industry executives in cocktail attire for a four-course dinner prepared by James Beard Award-winning chef Tandy Wilson of City House.
“This is the very first time we’ve ever been nominated for a CMA, so we’re celebrating every step of the way,” said LoCash member Preston Brust.
“The CMA has been great to us over the years,” added fellow LoCash singer Chris Lucas. “We used to play the after-party for the CMA and now we’re nominated for a CMA. It’s really, really emotional.”
The evening began with a cocktail hour in a front room at the Parthenon. Songwriters including Rhett Akins, Josh Osborne and Luke Dick were among the first to arrive, quickly followed by Lambert and Pardi. Guests were met at the door with glasses of wine, and the room bustled with lively conversation for more than an hour before the group of nominees — distinguished by a medallion around their necks — was ushered upstairs for a quick class photo.
The Country Music Association’s CEO Sarah Trahern opened the dinner with remarks to remind the nominees the night’s event was all about them. She said that because of them and other artists who had played CMA Music Festival this year, $2.5 million had been donated to music education in the last week.
From the feet of the Parthenon’s 42-foot statue of Athena, Brooks followed with a toast to Las Vegas where 58 people were killed in a mass shooting during a country music festival on Oct 1. His next toast was to the “greatest format and genre there is.”
“We’re all one family,” he told the room of the country music industry’s elite. “Here’s to the future of country music. It rests on your shoulders, and it’s in damn good hands.”
The 51st CMA Awards will air live from Nashville's Bridgestone Arena 8 p.m. ET Nov. 8 on ABC.
People in the Hampton Roads area will be able to watch all the excitement on 13News Now.