The 50th anniversary of the festival formerly known as Fan Fair came to a close Sunday night in Nashville, after four nights of concerts starring the biggest names in country music. 

Even before he took the stage, Keith Urban was already feeling the vibe.

“You KNOW people are out there that have never been to Nashville, never been to CMA Fest from all over the world… It’s an invigorating energy,” he told reporters backstage. “So for me, even having done it a lot of times, tonight will feel unlike any other time we’ve done it.”

For five-time CMA Vocal Group of the Year Old Dominion, their CMA Fest set was a reminder of how far they’ve come.

“I remember the first time hearing a crowd of people, which was probably 40 people, sing something back to us,” Matthew Ramsey recalled. “And I remember that kind of like setting us back on our heels a little bit. And then, you know, there’s awards that we win that [make you] go like, ‘Oh, wow. We’re accepted."”

For Cody Johnson, his Nissan Stadium invitation marked a career milestone as well.

“For me personally, I look back on all the years of working hard and never giving up and saying, ‘You know what? Someday I’m gonna be able to play my brand of country music that sounds more traditional… on a very large stage.’ So it’s an incredible thing,” the Texan reflected.

“We’re gonna try to burn this place to the ground tonight. No insurance is involved in that, by the way,” he joked.

You can experience it for yourself when ABC’s annual three-hour CMA Fest special airs Wednesday, July 19, hosted by Dierks BentleyLainey Wilson and Elle King

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