Garth Brooks paved the way for many of this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards nominees, so they can’t complain if he steals the show this year.
Brooks will receive the Academy’s Crystal Milestone Award for being "the biggest selling solo artist in recorded history," according to producer Richard "RAC" Clark of Dick Clark Productions.
Two stars who fall on both sides of Brooks’ reign in the ’90s will team up for the first time live: George Strait and Kenny Chesney will perform their duet "Shiftwork" in Sunday’s festivities televised from the MGM Grand Garden.
Another phenomenon known as "American Idol" has widened the career appeal of Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler, who provide "a little extra (incentive)" for viewers beyond the core country crowd, Clark notes.
The awards move from Tuesday to Sunday night this year, but otherwise hold steady for a mutually beneficial sixth year on the Strip. "One of our awards shows needs to be out of town," says Trace Adkins. "It needs to stay in Vegas, I think."
Reba McEntire again hosts the event, which has scheduled performances by Trace Adkins, Rodney Atkins, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, Montgomery Gentry, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Pickler, LeAnn Rimes, George Strait, Sugarland Taylor Swift, Underwood and Keith Urban.
Other stars who will be on hand as presenters or make appearances: Criss Angel, Clint Black, Brooks & Dunn, Kaley Cuoco, Sara Evans, Jewel, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Brad Mates, Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw, Randy Owen, John Rich, Clay Walker and Trisha Yearwood.
Entertainer of the Year nominees: Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, George Strait and Keith Urban.
If you go: The ceremonies begin at 5 p.m. in the MGM Grand Garden. Any remaining tickets are $100 and $150 at Ticketmaster outlets; call 474-4000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.
If you watch: The show is tape-delayed for the West Coast, starting at 8 p.m. on KLAS-TV, Channel 8.
Free shows: There are two free concerts on Fremont Street. Randy Owens of Alabama fame performs at 10:30 p.m. today, and Sugarland plays at 10:30 p.m. Saturday as part of an evening street party with several performers.
Motorcycle ride: The fifth Annual Charity Motorcycle Ride benefits the Academy of Country Music Charitable Fund on Saturday. Montgomery Gentry hosts for the fifth time. Registration fees start at $35; sign-up begins at 8 a.m. at Las Vegas Harley-Davidson, 2605 S. Eastern Ave. The ride starts there and ends up on Fremont Street. For advance registration and a list of scheduled riders, visit http://www.acmcountry.com/ride2008/.
New Artists’ Party for a Cause: Nominees in New Artist categories — this year including Jack Ingram, Taylor Swift and Carolina Rain — rally in a benefit for the Academy’s charitable foundation at 6 p.m. in the MGM Grand’s Marquee Ballroom. Remaining tickets are $50.
All-Star Jam: The Academy’s post-show party and concert also benefits its foundation. It’s a tight ticket, but face value was $100 for the 8:15 p.m. Sunday event in the MGM’s Marquee Ballroom.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.