Among the honored cast were Chris Stapleton, Gabby Barrett, Kane Brown, Kelsa Ballerini and Luke Combs, along with “Breakout Artist of the Year” Mickey Guyton and “Artist of a Lifetime” Randy Travis.
The show began with Combs performing “Forever After All”, accepting his award from Eric Church. Combs thanked the fans and his wife, and gave a special call out to Randy Travis for his influence.
Barrett sang “The Good Ones” backed by her husband and a guitarist.
Guyton was introduced by presenter Misty Copeland, who received a standing ovation after singing “Remember Her Name” with Yola. When Guyton accepted his award, he told the crowd “country music really is everyone’s music” and thanked his parents.
At one point, Garth Brooks introduced Travis and presented him with the “Artist of a Lifetime” award. Travis’ wife Mary Davis joined Brooks on stage to acknowledge and thanked the audience, saying, “Randy’s stroke may have taken his voice, but not man or heart, and it didn’t take music.”
Boyz II Men, joined by Kevin Olusola of Pentatonix, honored Chris Stapleton with a performance of their song “Cold”.
The ballerini accepted his award from Nick Jonas, thanking fans for their support.