Published: Monday, October 02, 2017 @ 11:25 AM
By: Crystal Bonvillian, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
LAS VEGAS — It was during the final performance of the Route 91 Harvest Festival that a gunman opened fire Sunday night in Las Vegas, killing more than 50 people and wounding over 400 more in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The festival, in its fourth year, bills itself on Facebook as “three days of country music on the Vegas strip.” Hashtags for the event included #RT91Harvest and #ThreeDayNeonSleepover.
Beginning Friday, it boasted performances by some big names in Nashville, including Eric Church and Sam Hunt, who closed out the night Friday and Saturday, respectively. Other performers throughout the weekend included Jake Owen, Big and Rich and Maren Morris.
Headliner Jason Aldean took the main stage on the final night about 20 minutes before police say alleged gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. The 43-story resort is owned and operated by MGM Resorts International, which also owns the Las Vegas Village and Festival Grounds.
The 15-acre entertainment, sports and festival venue, the location of the festival, can hold more than 25,000 guests.
NPR reported that last year’s festival was at capacity. Passes and VIP packages for this year’s event, which ranged in price from $210 to $750, were sold out as well, according to the festival’s website.
Concert-goers who spent the weekend at the festival had the option of bunking at the Circus Circus RV Park for $45 per night, or they could choose from more than a half-dozen hotels within two or three blocks of the venue.
The Mandalay Bay, which overlooks the festival grounds, was one of those options.
Social media posts on the festival’s official Facebook page, along with posts from performers and singers, show a fun-filled weekend full of music. The Washington Post reported that a couple got engaged during one of the performances Friday evening.
One group at the festival, Brothers Osborne, took to Twitter to call that night “one for the books.”
The festival’s organizers on Saturday told fans they were “still not over” the day before.
“We can’t believe we get to do it all over again today; get ready,” an afternoon post read.
Photos and videos from the festival show a rousing time, with patrons taking advantage of the amenities offered, including water stations that not only kept people hydrated, but also kept them cool with misting fans.
Throughout the day, the festival’s page also had live footage of some of the acts taking the stages.
“Rise and shine, Las Vegas!” one post read on Sunday morning. “We hope you’re rested because we’ve got a big day ahead of us!”
Festival organizers’ final Facebook post before the shooting read, “Good friends, good music and good drinks. What more could we want?”
Performers at the festival in 2016 included Toby Keith, Brad Paisley and Luke Bryan. Previous years saw Aldean take the stage, as well as Tim McGraw, Blake Sheldon, Keith Urban, Florida Georgia Line and Miranda Lambert.
This year’s festival was organized by Live Nation and tour promoter Brian O'Connell, who NPR reported also produced the country music festivals Watershed in Washington, Faster Horses in Michigan, Lake Shake in Chicago and Farmborough in New York City.