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October 22, 2017

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Vegas Goes Country with 120 hours of Rascal Flatts, Hayes, Urban, Bryan and ACM Awards


Steve Marcus

Hunter Hayes and Stevie Wonder backstage at the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand on Sunday, April 7, 2013.

2013 ACM Awards at MGM Grand

Luke Bryan holds his awards for Entertainer of the Year and Vocal Event of the Year at the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand on Sunday, April 7, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Hunter Hayes

It’s the Week Vegas Goes Country, and it all begins with 22-year-old Hunter Hayes playing a free concert for country music fans in the shadows of the new High Roller observation wheel at the Linq tonight.

For the next 120 hours, it’s nothing but Nashville in Las Vegas highlighted by five hours of CBS broadcasts from MGM Grand with satellite cut-ins from Mandalay Bay.

As Academy of Country Music head honcho Bob Romeo told me Monday: “This year we have the largest-ever turnout of mega-stars — everybody who is in country music from legends to newcomers will be in Las Vegas.”

Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan

However, it’s not just about the ACM Awards on Sunday or the “ACM Presents: Salute to the Troops” taping Monday, which we previewed here Monday.

All across our valley, there are star-studded ACM events marking the 49th annual awards and the third-annual ACM Fan Jam. On Friday in our weekly Weekend Celebrity Preview, we’ll have the latest on the two telecasts, but here’s the Royal Robin Rundown of everything from start to finish, from golf and archery to fan participation.

Hunter Hayes

In addition to kicking off country week, Hunter will play a large role in Sunday’s awards. It’s difficult to believe that Hunter’s been performing since he was just 4 years old and writing music since he was 6. On ACM visits to Las Vegas the past two years, he’s talked with us about how he juggles college and touring.

Doors open at Koval and Winnick parking areas behind the Linq at 6 p.m., and before Hunter takes the stage at 9:45 p.m. (after his awards rehearsals at MGM), fans will be entertained by Sasha McVeigh, Cole Swindell and David Nail. A fun zone will be set up today with a family-friendly country marketplace with vendors and food trucks driven in from across the country.

The two-day, outdoor 2nd Annual ACM Party for a Cause gets underway Friday and Saturday. There will be multiple stages for performances headlined by Florida Georgia Line and Rascal Flatts on Friday and Keith Urban on Saturday. Other artists appearing Friday include Danielle Bradbery, Thomas Rhett, Justin Moore and Cassadee Pope.

Artists appearing Saturday include Parmalee, Brett Eldredge, Lee Brice, Joe Nichols, Chris Young and Max Impact, the premiere rock band of the U.S. Air Force. That party continues from midnight to 2 a.m. Sunday with an After Hours show starring Jerrod Niemann, The Swon Brothers, Tyler Farr and Natalie Stovall with The Drive.

Get up early Saturday morning when Luke Bryan and Justin Moore co-host an archery event there featuring 3D and traditional targets. Testing their skills with bows and arrows and their knowledge of archery will be many country music stars including Lee Brice, Thomas Rhett and Florida Georgia Line.

For autograph hunters, expect to see Jewel at the PureVia booth and Cowboy Troy with Joe Nichols at the Roper booth. Check out even more stars appearing at the Dr Pepper, Firestone, RAM and ConAgra booths, with an hourly updated rundown at the festival’s Info Booth.

Carrie Underwood

On Saturday, Darius Rucker hosts the ACM Lifting Lives Celebrity Golf Classic at TPC Summerlin for the third consecutive year and the eighth since 2004. Among the players teeing off will be Charles Kelley, Scotty McCreery, Jake Owen, Cole Swindell and Frankie Ballard. Country artists have their own causes under the Lifting Lives umbrella; here is Carrie Underwood talking about her foundation on YouTube.

Then comes the Fourth Annual ACM Fan Jam on Sunday from Mandalay Bay Events Center headlined by Florida Georgia Line with New Artist of the Year nominees Brett Eldredge, Justin Moore and Kip Moore.

Luke Bryan, who co-hosts with Blake Shelton the simultaneous 2014 ACM Awards telecast from MGM Grand Garden Arena, will race under police escort back and forth to perform with FGL on a satellite live cut-in. Even when the TV show ends, the party continues with a FGL concert.

Fans will have multiple ways to interact and participate in all the events right up to and throughout the broadcasts. There’s voting for Entertainer of the Year award and New Artist of the Year — go to

Additionally, as I tweeted Wednesday, Britney Spears’ sister Jamie Lynn will be the official social media correspondent for the Academy. Jamie Lynn, celebrating the release of her critically acclaimed first country single, “How Could I Want More,” which she co-wrote with Rivers Rutherford, will update regularly starting today through Monday night on and in real time on Twitter @jamielynnspears. Behind-the-scenes photo and video interviews from rehearsals and red carpet events can be found at

New to the red carpet this year will be a Vine 360 aerial camera and Yahoo Twitter selfie mirrors backstage as the stars wait their stage entrances. The Vine account and the Twitter account are @ACMAwards. In addition, Joshua Morrow and Steve Burton, who star on “The Young and the Restless,” will report backstage action at

We’ll update 2014 ACM Awards news Friday in our weekly Weekend Celebrity Preview. We’ll have weekend reports and photographs of rehearsals and events, plus, our last minute pre-red carpet preview, on Sunday, followed by tweets @robin_leach from MGM Grand throughout the three-hour awards.

Then we’ll be back Monday with a backstage wrap and a preview of Monday’s “All-Star Salute to the Troops” with Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley hosted by LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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