Bikini-clad women wearing cowboy boots line-danced on the asphalt. Boats checkered Biscayne Bay, enjoying the music from the water. Some festival-goers rode a mechanical bull, while others played beer pong and corn hole.
Oh, and there were domino tables, too.
Those were only a few of the images Sunday, as the country music world took over Miami in the first ever Tequila Bay Country Music Festival on the grounds of Miami Marine Stadium.
“There are so many country fans down here in Miami, I am surprised it took this long to start a festival down here,” said the day’s first performer, Shelly Fairchild, a country artist from Nashville. “Better now than never.”
Despite the heat — and it was very hot — more than 10,000 people flocked to the venue for A-list acts, including Brantley Gilbert, Kip Moore and Montgomery Gentry. The iconic stadium served as the backdrop.
The early highlight: Free tequila (from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.). By 5 p.m. more than 15,000 shots of tequila had been consumed.
“We love tequila, we love country music,” said Ashley Landman, 23, who cooled down with the help of a super-strength water gun. “We are having so much fun so far.”
Nelson Albareda, president of Loud and Live, the producer, said the response to the festival has been overwhelming.
“Country has gone mainstream,” Albareda said. “And people love it.”
Albareda, whose background is in promoting music and events, said he came up with the idea because his wife Elena, a Puerto Rican native, loves country music and there were no Miami options. He also tried to reach a demographic he said exists in Miami — Hispanic country music fans.
A Country Music Association study showed that the number of Hispanic country music fans across the nation has grown by 25 percent in the last 10 years.
So he began looking for venues and decided the grounds were the perfect fit.
“Look at all the people out on the bay,” he said, adding that there were no major incidents as of about 5:30 p.m., which City of Miami police and fire rescue confirmed. “And look how many people came.”
That’s what this is about. This is what people want to see in Miami.”
Those who came agreed.
“This is great; we don’t have to drive to West Palm Beach for country,” said Gaby Garcia, who lives in Miami. Country artists don’t generally make their way as far south as Miami. “This is right around the corner.”
Albareda said he is already talking about next year and expanding to more days.
“Get ready Miami, we are here to stay,” he said.