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Watch Kelsea Ballerini, Billy Ray Cyrus and More Kick Off CMA Music Festival

Country legends put on an epic performance for night one on the Cracker Barrel Country Roads Stage in Nashville

This year, all music fans can check out Nashville’s Annual CMA Music Festival – courtesy of the Cracker Barrel Country Roads Stage. Last night, Cracker Barrel kicked off the festival with Legends night – the first of three nights of free concerts on the stage at Nashville’s Ascend Amphitheater. With performances by some of the biggest names in country – including Big & Rich, Deana Carter, Billy Ray Cyrus and The Oak Ridge Boys, plus a guest appearance by Kelsea Ballerini – the night gave fans an unforgettable introduction to the festival.

“It’s so cool because I feel like since I’ve gotten to be involved in CMA Fest as an artist, every year it’s been a giant step,” says Ballerini. “It’s so much fun because I grew up going to CMA Fest as a fan, so I still have that perspective and that excitement that I came with before. I really try to carry that as I get to host it now.”

On Thursday, fans could sign up at the Nash Icon booth in Ascend Park for a chance to sing, karaoke-style, one of Ballerini’s favorite songs from her favorite legendary artists on the Cracker Barrel Country Roads stage. Serving as judge, Ballerini joined the contestants on stage and presented the winner with a $500 Visa gift card and $100 Cracker Barrel gift card; two runners-up received $100 Cracker Barrel gift cards as well.

Ballerini released her first single from her second record on Wednesday, “Legends,” offering a perfect connection to the opening night theme. She premiered the single earlier this week at the CMT Music Awards and will be performing it again later on at the festival.

“We heard about this karaoke contest that’s all about people singing legendary songs and I was like, ‘This is perfect!'” says Ballerini. “I [got] to guest judge and got to pick out my favorite legendary country songs…and I [got] to listen to all these amazing people sing these amazing country songs,” says Ballerini. 

Last night’s show marks the launch of a three-year partnership between Cracker Barrel and CMA Fest – so if you missed it this year, be sure to plan ahead for 2018.

In addition to the performances, Cracker Barrel also launched its Rock-A-Thon, placing the brand’s signature rocking chairs throughout downtown Nashville within
the CMA festival footprint, providing festival-goers with a little piece of home while they’re away. If fans collectively rack up 150,000 rocking chair rocks, Cracker Barrel will donate $15,000 to the CMA Foundation – giving providing festival-goers with a little piece of home while they’re away. If fans collectively rack up 150,000 rocking chair rocks, Cracker Barrel will donate $15,000 to the CMA Foundation – giving rock a whole new meaning. 

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