Country music fests are held around the world, in sometimes surprising places. However, it is the United States where the genre originated. The largest and most important festivals of this type occur in that country. The genre evolved from a variety of ethnic traditions, primarily in the southeastern states, where it was once called hillbilly music, similar to what you'll hear at bluegrass festivals. It mixed with music from the western states, where it's referred to as country and western. Today, the term "country" covers a broad spectrum of styles.
The most important of all country music festivals—and one of the most important music festivals overall—is the annual CMA Festival held annually in Nashville, Tennessee, over a four day period in June. Don't confuse these four days of festivities, concerts, and performances with the CMA Awards Ceremony, which is a single, star-studded evening in November. Nashville is the undisputed capital of country music, home of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry. Close to 500,000 people from more than 40 countries and all 50 states attend. In addition to numerous concerts in Riverfront Park and LP Field and performances by world-famous headliners, there are autograph sessions and fan club gatherings held all over the area.
Virtually every state has country music fests that are extremely popular—many states have several. The Stagecoach Festival (pictured) held in the town of Indio in April is the premier one in California. Look for performers like Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire, and Carrie Underwood. Features include onsite and offsite camping and shuttles to and from local hotels. This festival offers western-style and country music events for the children as well, making this a great family destination. Take the kids to the Half-Pint Hootenanny from noon until 6:00 p.m. each day. Here they can enjoy a petting zoo, pint-size steer roping, a hoedown, face painting, and a variety of games and music.
Similar country music festivals in states around the country include Country Thunder held over four days at the beginning of April in Florence, Arizona, and over four days in mid-July in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin. These dual country music fests take advantage of the best weather in each state and feature such famous performers as Rascal Flatts, Kellie Pickler, Tim McGraw, and Martina McBride. Each venue offers a variety of camping sites. Most sites are primitive, meaning you should bring all the supplies you need. Also, it pays to book your campsite in advance, as they do sell out early. A limited number of more expensive sites with water and electric hook ups are available.
You may be surprised at how popular this music genre is in countries outside the United States, particularly in Europe and Australia. There are country music festivals held in a number of European countries, with the greatest number being held in the UK. However, the largest and most famous of the European country music events is the Festival de Country Music d'Europe, held in July in the little town of Mirande in southwestern France. For five days in mid-July, upwards of 100,000 people descend on the small village where they enjoy more than 60 concerts, hot air balloon rides, western-style dance, and more.
You can also head Down Under to Tamworth, the "Country Music Capital of Australia." The Tamworth Country Music Festival lasts for ten days during January (the Australian summer) and has been rated by Forbes as one of the World's Coolest Music Festivals, with surprise performers like native son Keith Urban and scheduled guests from around the world. The town of Tamworth is located about 300 miles southwest of Sydney, and the festival is said to be the second largest of its type in the world.