NASHVILLE – The CMA Music Festival (search) began Thursday, with more than 400 artists and celebrities performing on several stages scattered throughout downtown Nashville.
Artists scheduled to perform Thursday included Ty Herndon, Mel Tillis, Pam Tillis, Chely Wright, Cowboy Troy, Restless Heart, Trent Willmon, The Bellamy Brothers, Shelly Fairchild, and Neal McCoy.
And that's not counting the big Coliseum show Thursday night, which was to feature Dierks Bentley, LeAnn Rimes (search), Julie Roberts, Sugarland, Keith Urban (search), Phil Vassar, and Lee Ann Womack (search).
Last year's total attendance over the four days was 132,000, and a CMA spokesman says this year's ticket sales are up nearly 20 percent.
For those who can't make the festival, ABC will air highlights during a two-hour special Aug. 2.