Like many country stars, Sara Evans knows the importance of staying connected to her fans.
The 2006 Academy of Country Music female vocalist of the year does that during the Country Music Assn.'s annual Nashville, Tenn., gathering once known as Fan Fair. Staged again last month over a four-day weekend, the huge gathering also yields a TV special, which ABC presents as "CMA Music Festival: Country Music's Biggest Party" at 9 tonight.
Other performers on the two-hour show include Brooks & Dunn, Martina McBride, Wynonna Judd, Trace Adkins, Carrie Underwood, Hank Williams Jr. and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Some will be greeting fans whose stories are told as cameras follow them around the festival.
Still enjoying the popularity of her fifth and latest album, "Real Fine Place," the Missouri-raised Evans wouldn't miss a chance to meet so many supporters. A presence at the CMA Music Festival since 1998, the year after she launched her career, she says, "It has become a huge deal since it's also televised, which I think is awesome. Not only do we get to meet the fans, we also have this great opportunity on TV, and that's what's so cool about it.
"So many people dream of going there, the fact that they can see some of the performances on television is great. If I weren't in this industry, I would definitely watch the show."
That said, Evans is happier to be involved actively in the CMA Music Festival. "It's kind of like old home week," she muses. "Everybody [in country music] sees each other only three or four times a year, and I always look forward to that. We don't see each other the rest of the year because nobody's ever home."
Indeed, Evans is getting ready to hit the road again herself. "We're taking July off, along with part of August, then we start back up again."