Country music awards to return to Vegas with 3-day festival

The return of the Academy of Country Music Awards on April 3 will be surrounded by three nights of outdoor concerts as the Party for a Cause grows into a full-fledged festival this year.

Organizers have released a full schedule for the April 1-3 gathering on the 40-acre MGM Resorts Festival Grounds at the Sahara Avenue intersection with the Strip, developed for last year’s Rock in Rio festival.

It’s way more ambitious than concerts in past years under the same Party for a Cause banner. But even so, the fairgrounds will be scaled down to about half the size of the Rock in Rio layout.

“It’s bigger than what we need, but I figured let’s go down there and try it and see if we can’t grow into it. It’s worth a try,” said Bob Romeo, the Academy’s chief executive.

“It’s going to take a few years to build that up to where we can sell, say, 60,000 tickets,” Romeo added, saying he would be happy with 15,000 or more fans each night.

The music starts at 3 p.m. that Friday and at noon on Saturday and Sunday. Brandy Clark, Brett Eldredge, Martina McBride, Maren Morris, Chase Rice and A Thousand Horses are new names attached to the festival, which breaks down like this:

April 1: Carrie Underwood headlines the “ACM Women of Country Night,” supported by Cam, Kelsea Ballerini, Martina McBride, Kellie Pickler and Maddie & Tae on the main stage, with Lauren Alaina, Kelleigh Bannen, Brandy Clark and Jana Kramer on the Party Stage.

April 2: Dierks Bentley headlines a boys’ night on the main stage, with Frankie Ballard, Lee Brice, Chris Janson, Dustin Lynch, Chris Stapleton and Chris Young. The Party Stage offers Chase Bryant, Chris Lane, Jackson Michelson and A Thousand Horses.

April 3: Kenny Chesney provides live competition to the awards broadcast, after sets from Brett Eldredge, Sam Hunt, Kip Moore, Chase Rice and Old Dominion. Lindsay Ell, Maren Morris and Granger Smith perform on the Party Stage.

Three-day passes are $175, or $349 for VIP passes with access to upgraded vendor, bar and viewing areas. Tickets already are on sale. Performers are paid, but the Party for a Cause benefits the ACM Lifting Lives organization to assist veteran and military family causes.

The awards show televised on CBS left town last year to air its 50th anniversary from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, packing in thousands more fans but carrying four times the production costs of the Las Vegas-based years, Romeo said.

This year’s show may or may not cut to the outdoor festival, Romeo said. But it will not be divided among two indoor arenas, as it was last year with the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay. This year, the MGM arena will have both a main stage and a secondary stage, Romeo said.

Read more from Mike Weatherford at Contact him at Follow him @Mikeweatherford

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