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Oh, what a night! The iHeart Country Fest in Austin, Texas, continues to be a show you most definitely don’t want to miss. Throughout the years, the evening has included big names like Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, and so many more. It has also showcased those who were up-and-comers like Lauren Alaina, Parker McCollum, and Carly Pearce. It is a festival unlike any other in the ATX.
And we have Bobby Bones to thank for that. On the red carpet, the radio and TV personality said, “Years ago, I fought for it (the iHeart Country Festival) to be here and every year the company remains impressed at how great Austin is as a city.”
Though he’s one of the most Austin things about the festival every year, there are a number of other things that also make the event so ATX-tra special every year.
The Daytime Village is Free
While tickets for the event can be pricey, the festival also features a daytime village that’s totally free and we love free fun in Austin. The lineup for the free daytime event has included Luke Combs, Michael Ray, Lauren Alaina, Morgan Wallen, Chase Rice, and Jimmie Allen.
Texans LOVE to be back in Texas
In 2021, Parker McCollum returned to Austin and we couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk to him about all things Texas (see clip below). In 2022, Maren Morris played the festival for the second time, chatting on stage about how she started playing gigs in Texas at the age of 11. She closed out her set saying, “Thank you Austin, Texas. I love you so much. I always will.”
No one Can Resist Talking Barbecue and Tex-Mex
Every artist who walked the red carpet took the time to chat about ATX eats. Russel Dickerson shouted out Torchy’s Tacos, Luke Combs mentioned eating breakfast tacos at Buc-ees, and Bobby Bones gave a shout out to Iron Works.
In 2019, not only did LoCash’s Preston Brust raved about the deviled eggs, brussel sprouts, and strawberry shortcake cupcakes at Jacoby’s. He went on to say, “And I love all the Texas beer!” His favorite? “The national beer of Texas, Lonestar,” he exclaimed!
Luke Combs Keeps It Spicy at Whataburger
Though not in town for very long, Combs mentioned that he’d only have enough time to “grab some Whataburger and get out of dodge.” He’s a fan of the patty melt and spicy ketchup. “Gotta have spicy ketchup,” he said.
Michael Ray Turned 21 in Austin
Though 2019 was Michael Ray’s first time taking the stage at the iHeart Country Fest, it wasn’t his first time in Austin. In fact, he celebrated the big 2-1 at the Chuggin Monkey on Sixth Street. “It was forgettable, because I do not remember it,” he told FOX 7’s Tierra Neubaum. He went on to say that Austin, Texas, will always have a special place in his heart.
Everybody Loves to Keep It Weird
A couple of artists have mentioned keeping it weird on the red carpet, but it was Little Big Town who greeted the crowd with the statement, following their performances of “Pontoon” and “Better Man.”
“Thanks for having us back,” Karen Fairchild said. “We love this town so much… we love keeping it weird, we love drinking your margaritas.”
Tequila is Everything
Speaking of margaritas, one of the best performances of 2019 was Dan + Shay’s “Tequila.” OK, so this one doesn’t have a specific tie to Austin, but we do love tequila here in Texas. And the performance was too good to not share.
Texan Cody Johnson doesn’t sing about Austin specifically, but he IS a Texan. Perhaps that’s why the crowd really lit up when he performed his CMT Award wining hit ‘Til You Can’t in 2021.
Austinites Love to Hear the Word Austin
You know what song does have a tie to Austin? Old Dominion’s “Hotel Key.” The crowd went wild when the group sang, “She talked about Austin and how she’d get back there someday.” We do love it when people talk about us, don’t we?
Tim McGraw Is Alright, Alright, Alright
Tim McGraw was giving us all the Matthew McConaughey vibes in 2019. From the tight jeans, to the oversized belt buckle, to the unbuttoned shirt highlighting his chiseled chest, McGraw was working that stadium like it was his own. We couldn’t help but think he’d fit right in on the sidelines of a UT game with our hometown hottie MM.
Did we mention the iHeart Country Fest surprise guests?!
You’re always in for a surprise at the iHeart Country Fest. Sometimes there are small surprises like Walker Hayes singing Fancy Like or Mason Ramsey, the Walmart Yodeler. But you can also expect big unannounced guests too! In 2022, that guest was Dierks Bentley, who performed a duet with Lainey Wilson. But the biggest surprise to date happened in 2021 when George Strait took the stage. All hail the king!
On top of all of this goodness, the best thing about the iHeartCountry festival is how absolutely gracious each act is to be a part of it all. As host Bobby Bones has said, the country world is a big family. This was one family reunion we sure are happy to be a part of. If you’ve got a chance to attend in the future, take it!
Photos by Dani Dudek/ ATXgossip.