A Day in the Life with Bert Hensley

September 22, 2017

2017 ACM Honors Red Carpet

Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, Tennessee

The 11th annual ACM HONORS™, an evening dedicated to celebrating the special award honorees and off-camera category winners from the 52nd Academy of Country Music Awards, took place Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.  CSM Production’s Bert Hensley has worked for many years with the Academy of Country Music on the red carpet for the ACM HONORS™, and our team once again managed the design and production for this very special event.  

As the stars came out to honor some of the biggest names in country music, the 90-foot carpet along with a truss structure with custom-designed and printed backdrops and branding elements welcomed guests.

Held at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium, the show was taped to air Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.  Special award recipients included Kelsea Ballerini, Toby Keith, Bob Kingsley, Reba McEntire, the television series Nashville, Dolly Parton, Shel Silverstein (posthumously) and George Strait. 


5:30 a.m.

Show day starts with an alarm and quick glance at the weather forecast.  Live event production, especially outdoor shows, are so impacted by the weather, and this event was no exception.  As producers, much of our work is in the preparation and anticipation of different scenarios, including weather contingency plans.  We have a tent on standby should mother nature choose not to cooperate with our plans, but fortunately, the forecast trend of dry weather that started the day before has continued, and today is going to be a glorious late summer day.  Perhaps we can attribute it to the Total Solar Eclipse that Nashville experienced less than 48 hours prior to the show? 

6:30 a.m.

After a quick consultation with our client, I contact the tent company to let them know that we will not be utilizing the tent we had on standby. 

7:20 a.m.

I arrive at the show site to make sure everything is in order in advance of our 8:00am start, only to find a beer delivery truck parked right on the spot of our red carpet.  With the event happening just off Nashville’s Lower Broadway, which houses the famous Honky Tonk bars, the seemingly round-the-clock party needs to replenish the beer for the day, so early morning deliveries are a regular occurrence.  After 15-20 minutes, the driver emerges from the alley and indicates he only has a couple more handcart loads left, and will be out of the way in no time. 

8 a.m.

With the beer truck gone, and our security on-site to officially shut down 5th Avenue, we are cleared to begin our load-in.  It is going to be a hectic 7-hour set-up.


CSM Production’s Jimmy Wenz and Ashley Tobin Rutherford instruct the crew on the plan to unload the box truck of gear and event assets.

9:45 a.m.

Not only do we arrive early to begin set-up, but a few eager fans usually arrive the night before the show to claim a front row spot to see the stars arrive.  This year, these folks spent the night on the sidewalk.  Our crew begins placing the more than 600ft of bike rack barricades used to contain the crowd. 


10 a.m.

With the first sections of truss built and in place, we are starting to see some progress on the build-out of our structure.  This location is challenging because of the severe grade change from one end of the set-up to the other.  Nothing like producing a red carpet event on a hill.


11:45 a.m.

The first of this year’s branding is going into place, with 75 feet of step & repeat banners and graphic signage to follow.


3:20 p.m.

We are in the home-stretch now, with the Blue Carpet rolled out and ready for the publicists to do their thing to prep for the media arrival.


3:30 p.m.

We are show ready.  The past two hours we made an incredible push to get this thing in place.


4 p.m.

Media arrives to set-up their gear in advance of the carpet officially opening.


4:30-7 p.m.

The ACM Honors Red (Blue) Carpet is open and honorees, presenters and performers mark their arrival with a walk down the media gauntlet.


Thomas Rhett takes a selfie with the lady who camped out overnight on the sidewalk!


Reba’s in the house.


Chip Esten, who plays “Deacon” on the CMT television show Nashville, was on-hand to accept the 2017 Tex Ritter Film Award, which recognizes an outstanding television movie or series, or feature film which prominently features country music. 

7 p.m.

As the carpet winds down and the artists make their way inside the Ryman for the start of the taping of the show, our crew begins the load-out.  I’ve coordinated with the security officers to allow Jimmy and Ashley to back our trucks into place.  With the full crew back after a short break from the set-up, it all starts to come down.  Banners and carpet are rolled up, and the truss structure is dismantled piece by piece over the next three hours.  Jimmy and Ashley lead the crew, with the goal of being finished as close to 10pm as possible, when the street is supposed to re-open. 

8 p.m.

With the strike well under way, I go in to check on some drape that we supplied as part of a People Magazine photo shoot in the upper lobby of the auditorium.  En route, I catch the end of the Toby Keith performance, and the start of the Kelsea Ballerini segment.  That young lady is off to a great start and has the potential for a very long, successful career.

8:25 p.m.

On another pass through the building, I hear clever Brad Paisley say that when he sees Dolly Parton he always thinks of the Smoky Mountains… followed by an acoustic cover of Dolly’s “My Tennessee Mountain Home.”

10:15 p.m.

Ashley and Jimmy have both trucks loaded and there are just a few signage assets still being used in various areas surrounding and inside the Ryman.  After a sweep of the block and building to collect those items, the truck doors are closed and they pull away. 

11 p.m.

I arrive home after a long day.  The Fitbit reads 21,703 steps, 10.18 miles and 8,021 calories burned, and my body is feeling the results of those numbers.  But I don’t want to go to bed just yet.  My wife has been in Spain for 16 days and arrived home today, so we spend some time talking about her travel adventures and the show.  As the clock rolls over into Thursday, I finally force myself to sleep for a few hours before boarding a flight to Raleigh-Durham at 5:30am, and on to another project. 

ACM Honors, Nashville, Academy of Country Music, special event, event producer, red carpet, country music