(WITH SLIDESHOW) – As promised, CMT brought its film crews and country music stars to invade campus Wednesday. As part of the prize for winning CMT’s “Country College Town Sweepstakes,” the show “Hot 20 Countdown” was filmed throughout campus and an A-list concert was brought to the CFSB Center.
Tuesday it was announced students should meet in the Quad Wednesday afternoon for an opportunity to be on television by making an appearance on the “Country Music Countdown” show.
Around 75 students gathered in front of the Rainey T. Wells statue in the Quad and hooped and hollered as the two hosts of “Hot 20 Countdown” filmed the show’s opening stand up and introduced videos.
“I’ve wanted to be on CMT since I was 13,” said Sarah McKenzie, senior from Cadiz, Ky., who finally had the opportunity to achieve that dream Wednesday.
The hosts of the show posed for pictures with students and carried conversations between takes despite the cold temperatures.
Murray State was the smallest school in the sweepstakes, beating out much larger universities like Louisiana State University and Texas A&M University by a multitude of votes.
“I think it was a shock,” said Cody Alan, host of “Hot 20 Countdown.” “You would think larger schools would have the advantage, but I think the passion for CMT, our show, ‘Hot 20 Countdown,’ and for what we were doing in our quest to find the one school in America that wanted to have a free country music concert that it showed the passion behind the cause and I was happy to see it.”
Not only did Alan feel this way about Murray State’s victory in the sweepstakes, his co-host Katie Cook had similar feelings.
“It really shows that determination pays off in a contest like this,” she said. “We are all really proud of you guys.”
Unlike many of the other students in attendance at the filming, Emily Clark, junior from Owenton, Ky., said her teacher let her out early to be a part of the unique experience.
“The whole experience is just really cool,” Clark said. “It is just a really good opportunity and I didn’t even have to skip class to come. We convinced the teacher to let us out early.”
The tapings across campus were a preview to the main concert event Wednesday night.
As part of the prize for winning the sweepstakes CMT brought Chase Bryant, Joe Nichols and Big and Rich to the CFSB Center for a free concert just for Murray State students and the Murray community.
Chase Bryant opened the show by saying he could “use a little bit of Murray, Ky.,” and dedicated a song to all the couples in love in the audience to raise their phones up high, lighting up the arena with the glow of cell phone light.
Bryant pleased the crowd most when he covered the song “Fishin’ In The Dark” by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and then stripped off his shirt and put on a Murray State T-shirt. He then sang his hit single “Take It On Back,” to close his set.
Between sets, Alan and Cook entertained the crowd with games and activities like a sign competition. The winning sign read “Save a horse, ride a racer!”
There was also a corn hole competition between President Bob Davies and Nichols, which Nichols was the winner of. Davies then crowd-surfed across the pit.
The crowd erupted with applause as Nichols opened his set with his 2002 hit “Brokenheartsville,” and told the crowd they “looked so beautiful tonight like the stars in the sky.”
Nichols surprised the crowd by doing his own rendition of “country rap” by rapping the song “I Like Big Butts” by Sir Mix-A-Lot.
A surprise in the audience was an appearance by Santa Clause. Many students and children in the audience fled to the man dressed up in the red suit for pictures and to tell him their Christmas wishes.
“The people at Froggy told me if I dressed as Santa I would have a better chance of getting to the front,” said Doug Mullins of Murray. “My wife told me people would think I was crazy but so many children have come up asking for pictures that it makes the whole thing worth it.”
Big and Rich closed the show and started their first song in the back of the arena and working their way through the crowd to the stage.
John Rich, one of the two lead singers in the group, congratulated Murray State by saying students in Murray kicked the other schools’ asses.
Big and Rich also debuted their new single “Who You Been Lovin’ Lately” that they collaborated on with country artist Tim McGraw.
Big and Rich ended their set and closed the show by playing their biggest hit, “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.”
Nicole Fix, sophomore from O’Fallon, Ill., was excited for CMT to bring entertainers, like Nichols and Big and Rich, which she grew up loving and listening to.
“I was most excited to see Joe Nichols and Big and Rich,” Fix said. “They’re from my childhood so it doesn’t matter if their songs are from six years ago; they’re great entertainers.”
The footage shot in Murray Wednesday will be shown on CMT’s “Hot 20 Countdown” show at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 22 on CMT.
Story by Breanna Sill, Features Editor