Covering the K-Love Fan Awards Weekend, Part 2 - The Event

I couldn't believe that the weekend had finally arrived.

It started off being very nerve-racking. My husband didn't get off work until noon on the day we needed to leave so it was going to be tight to get there in time to get our credentials at best. 

Then, of course, things happened... having last minute, unplanned things we had to do before leaving and really bad traffic - worse than we had planned for.

On the way, we discussed what we needed to do first when we got into town. We had planned to go to check-in where we were staying first, then go to the venue (the Opryland Convention Center) to get our media passes, with a quick stop at one of the book signings on the way to getting our credentials.

Since we were delayed, we skipped the hotel and almost ran into the venue to get our media passes, realizing quickly that we couldn't find where to pick them up using the description that had been emailed to us. 

As the clock ticked... and my heart beat... faster and louder and louder and faster... we kept asking workers (who had no idea) and trying to figure out where we needed to go.

Arriving just before the deadline, we finally got our passes. What a relief it was!

It didn't end there, though. There were several book signings throughout the afternoon. Though in a perfect world, I would have loved to get every one of them, there was only one I really, really wanted - Matthew West's.

Our plan had been to get there in time to get his signature and then pick up our credentials. 

Since we were so late and it took a while to get our credentials, the line was looooong to get to him. 

I was upset, but what could I do? We decided that instead of waiting in line, we would skip trying to have him sign one of his books for us. (We did, however, get some pictures of him signing books.) 

By this time, we also knew that there wasn't time for us to check in where we were staying so we decided we would just check in after the first concert that evening.

The Friday night concert was a blast! The headliner was TobyMac and he always puts on a good show. Terrian (one of his backup singers who is also doing solo work) sang and man, does she have an amazing voice.

The night was rounded out with Blessing Offor, who was powerful; Colton Dixon, who was fun; and Katy Nichole, who was just all-around amazing.

Saturday was a day packed with concerts. In the morning, there was a "Worship in the Round" concert with Brandon Lake, David Leonard, Jon Reddick, Josh Baldwin, and Tasha Layton. 

The "Emerging Artists Showcase" consisted of an acoustic set with Ben Fuller, Cody Carnes, Dan Bremnes, Rachael Lampa, and Consumed by Fire and was hosted by Brandon Heath. It was laid back and included some amazing vocals.

The evening had another acoustic set with the "Songwriters Showcase." This set was a blast. Hosted by Steven Curtis Chapman, it included Anne Wilson, Cochran & Co, Lauren Daigle, Mercy Me, and Matthew West.

It would be hard to choose, but I feel like this last set was my favorite. Matthew and Steven cut up like crazy; Matthew sang an acoustic version of "Truth Be Told" (one of my all-time favorites); and all of the songwriters told backstories of their songs.

Sunday morning there was a church service with worship being led by Chris Tomlin. Between my physical and mental health issues, I came into the weekend knowing that I couldn't do it all - and this was what we chose to skip. I knew there was no way I would make it through the main events if I didn't take that time off.

Finally... it was time for the Red Carpet - the original event we had been invited to shoot. 

We had to find where it was held (the map was confusing) and from that point, it was just a lot of chaos, but the good kind. It was the controlled chaos of setting up cameras and lights and backdrops and making sure the bike racks were in the right place to keep the fans where they should be and making sure every person knew their roles...

It was the kind of chaos I love.

It was so much fun seeing the excitement in the fans' eyes, of seeing the talent interact with them and during camera interviews, of watching how a production like this is run...

But the real fun was being a part of the team - and being treated as a "real" photographer. Travis and I both still deal with a lot of the feelings of imposter syndrome. To be treated as an equal to the other photographers was a huge boost. For example, we were asked if the backdrop for the Red Carpet photos was okay. I spoke up and said that more light is always better. 

And they listened and brought up the light! Whoa...

I took photos of the talent as expected but I also walked around and took behind-the-scenes photos, which was an absolute blast.

After the long wait, the actual Red Carpet event was over pretty quickly and we headed to the main event - the actual awards ceremony.

They only had one photographer (or one team) shoot the actual awards, but we were given the opportunity to do something much more exciting - we got to be in the press conferences that the talent would come to after winning or performing. 

We had to walk all the way around the Grand Ole Opry to the back where the talent's entrance was. After walking past the many, many, many dressing rooms, we finally ended up in a huge studio where the press conferences would be held. 

With this being our first time there, we had to figure out where to sit and what to do. They didn't have name plates at the seats so we chose where we thought would be best and started setting up - Travis putting together his camera and working on his settings and me pulling out my laptop, finding power, connecting to wifi, getting out my voice recorder, etc - having already decided that Travis would shoot and I would take notes.

After the first performer's press conference, I quickly sprung into action. I decided I wanted to participate - to join the others in asking questions. 

I'm so thankful that we had covered NASCAR the month before. It was the first time I had been brave enough to ask a question during a press conference. Because that experience went well, I knew I could do it again.

There is one thing I'll do very differently if I'm ever able to do this again - I wish I had researched the talent and had written up some great questions before that night. As it was, I spent every minute of the breaks between the press conferences frantically trying to come up with good questions that directly related to each interviewee.

Something that still amazes me is that I had several people, including some of the talent, tell me afterward that I had some great questions. It gave me a major boost of confidence so that now I actually look forward to asking questions in other press conferences I might find myself in.

One of my concerns had been if there would be food as it started in the early afternoon and wouldn't be finished until late that night. We were told there would be basically glorified snacks but we were pleasantly surprised that it was much better than advertised. It consisted of finger foods but they tasted great, sandwiches from a local deli, elaborate veggie trays, snack-sized bags of chips, crackers, etc. 

It was more than enough to keep us going throughout the long evening.

Finally, it was over. We packed up and headed back to the car.

However, we didn't realize that the fun would continue. Walking back through the dressing room area was a hoot as all the talent were packing up and leaving. 

Many of the doors of the dressing rooms were open and so we got to see that they were themed after country music legends. I snuck some photos as we walked but didn't want to seem like too much of a sightseer so I didn't take many.

Then, because our car was parked pretty far away, I waited at the talent's entrance for my husband to go and get the car. This was where I got two compliments from talent about my questions and I got to show one of the performers some cool shots I had taken of him. 

It was definitely a weekend I'll never forget  - and I really, really hope that we get to do it again next year (where I'll know what I'm doing and can really knock it out of the park!)



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