Seat filling for the CMA Awards!

My track record with celebrity encounters isn’t great. Actually, I take that back. I have no problems meeting celebrities. It’s fun, but usually kind of uneventful in a ‘heynicetomeetyouokaybye’ kind of way. It’s my almost-celebrity encounters that tend to get weird/awkward. An example, I’m 95% sure I almost hit Ron Howard with my car once. On the off chance that is he is reading this: Mr. Howard, I am so, so sorry. But that’s a story for another time.

The real subject of this blog is seat filling. And yes, that means pretty much exactly what it sounds like. A lot of big televised events use volunteers as seatfillers to sit in the empty seats when people are away from their seats for some reason. This is to ensure that nothing looks empty on tv. This particular event was the 47th annual CMA awards. Aside from all the usual suspects, everyone from duck commanders to a guy who, at one point, referred to himself as ‘Diddy’. Even Dave Grohl made an appearance. Plus, it’s not every day you get to see big stars like George Strait, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, and Taylor Swift from 15 feet away. Not to mention, seeing Alan Jackson and George Strait sing ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ was definitely a highlight of the evening.

Seat filling is serious business. There are a lot of guidelines involved to make sure everything and everyone moves along quickly and unnoticed. But on the upside, you do get to see the show from many different sides and usually sit in places that you normally can’t get to. This was my first time as a seat filler, and it was quite the experience.

You start out in a holding area, and from there on out people get directed to sit wherever people are needed. You sit down, wait until the original occupant returns, and then you get up and wish them a great show and quietly return to the holding area. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Unless you’re me and you panic.

Me and my friend get whisked away about an hour into the show and directed to the first row. As I sit down, I’m told to go one row back and sit in the only empty seat in the middle of the row. Keep in mind there is about 30 seconds left in the commercial break (when all the switches happen). As I am trying to gracefully make my way to the seat in question without stepping on any famous toes, I see there’s a small black clutch in there. There are less than 20 seconds left in the break at this point. I look around for crew members for a second, but after not seeing any I decided to hold on to it until whoever it belongs to comes back. Now, that would’ve been fine. At least, I figured it would be. But then the lady next to me says the clutch belongs to Cassadee Pope (winner of The Voice), and that she’s coming right back. This leaves roughly 10 seconds for me to get out of the row (without tripping over anyone) and get out of camera sight before the break is over. I start walking back, but halfway through I realize I’m still holding Cassadee’s clutch. Whoops! Cue a mild panic attack on my part. I turn around and make my way back to the empty seat, put the clutch back where I found it, and try to get out of the way as quickly as possible without elbowing anyone in the face. By now, everyone else in that row probably hates me/thinks I’m an idiot. Probably both. Eventually, I made it back to the holding area. But not without almost getting run over by some of Eric Church’s equipment. Again, to whomever this may concern, I apologize. Somehow I don’t think I would do well during a zombie attack.

Either way, I made it through the night without hurting anyone or (accidentally) stealing anything and it ended up being a great night. But seat filling is not for the easily confused, I can tell you that much…

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