More than 22,00 country fans came out for the fourth annual Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, over the weekend. The fourth edition of the event from Live Nation’s country division sets up shop on a 15-acre plot on Las Vegas Boulevard, right across from the Mandalay Bay Hotel on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip.
The festival was slated to feature some of the genre’s biggest stars from Friday (Sept. 29) night until Sunday (Oct. 1). By all accounts it went off without any issues, until around 10 p.m. on Sunday, when alleged lone gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire with an automatic weapon on the crowd below from his 32nd floor hotel room at the Mandalay, killed at least 58 and wounding more than 515 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The festival is one of a suite of similar events promoted by Live Nation across the country, which also include Chicago’s Country Lake Shake, Brooklyn, Michigan’s Faster Horses Festival and George, Washington’s Watershed Fest. This year’s Route 91 featured headlining sets from Eric Church, Sam Hunt, Jason Aldean, Jake Owen, Maren Morris, Brothers Osborne and Lee Brice, as well as appearances by Big & Rich, Kane Brown, Michael Ray, Lauren Alaina, Brett Young and the Josh Abbott Band. The space has also hosted the iHeartRadio Festival’s Daytime Village, as well as the 48 Hours Festival, Warped Tour and parts of the Life is Beautiful Festival over the past several years.
The 2016 event (Sept. 30 – Oct 2) featured an equally packed lineup, with headlining performances from Luke Bryan, Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Little Big Town and Chris Young. The festival site has a capacity of 25,000 and according to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal Las Vegas locals accounted for only 5 percent of the 2015 attendees of Route 91 (Oct. 2-4), which hosted Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, Gary Allan, Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw and Brett Eldredge.
Around 20,000 people turned up for the inaugural edition in 2014 to hear Aldean, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, among others, with the Review-Journal writing, “Fans of the Nashville sound made the south end of the Strip look like a country fair for a few days. Cornhole games were speckled in between cowboy hat vendors and lawn chairs with signs reading ‘redneck seating.'”
Just days before this year’s fest, the Review-Journal reported that country fans who enrolled in the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program would jump the line into a “fast pass lane” that would help them gain entry to the Route 91 event more quickly; though passing that level of preventive security would not have stopped the shooter, who was perched in an adjacent hotel room across the street from the event.
Concert organizer Brian O’Connell told the paper in 2014 that he chose the name because it just sounded cool to him. Before the Strip was lined with casinos, it was called Route 91. “Nobody knew it. And that’s what I love about it,” O’Connell said. “You can always discover something new right in front of you. Something old has become something new… There is more to it than a stage in a parking lot with a bunch of bands.”
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