Texas loomed large at the 50th Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday night, including the night's big winner, Texas native Miranda Lambert, who took home the most awards, for album, song and female vocalist of the year.
Lambert joined a superstar lineup of performers that also included George Strait, Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Brooks & Dunn and Reba McEntire. Taylor Swift was one of five acts who received Milestone awards, along with Strait, Brooks & Dunn, McEntire and Brooks.
Swift, whose award was presented by her mother, Andrea Finlay, was the only Milestone winner who did not perform. The entire list of winners is here.
Held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, the awards followed a weekend of ACM-related events including a charity party on Friday night at the Omni Dallas hotel. The awards had a Dallas-centric theme: There were Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders onstage, and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw a football pass to co-hosts Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton. Dallas-based cosmetics company Mary Kay handed out bracelets that glowed and changed colors.
A number of performers directed their comments to Dallas. Only Cole Swindell, who won for new artist of the year, addressed the fact that the stadium was not, in fact, in Dallas. "Thank you from Dallas – or Arlington, Texas," he said, falteringly.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Gov. Greg Abbott and CBS head Les Moonves announced that a record had been set with 70,252 in attendance.
"We're so proud to have the ACMs here, I just have to pinch myself," Jones said. "It's an honor, but it's one that we just want to do such a great job. If we do a good job, then we'll have the opportunity to do this and many other things.
"That's what Gene and I had in mind when we were thinking about building this stadium."
The evening's success helped dispel the memory of the Super Bowl held at the stadium in 2011, a weekend ruined by ice and snow. This time, it was blue skies for a red carpet at the stadium preceding the awards, covered by local and national press including Glamour, Billboard, People and US Weekly. Walkers included Stephen Jones, Troy Aikman, Jason Witten, Scotty McCreery, Kellie Pickler, Montgomery Gentry, Deana Carter, Montel Williams and local acts like Casey Donahew Band and Josh Abbott Band.
The night featured a pair of odd combinations, including Nick Jonas guesting with country duo Dan & Shay, and a pairing between Christina Aguilera and Rascal Flatts, who sang "Shotgun."
Offbeat presenters included Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev; Dr. Phil McGraw; actresses Reese Witherspoon and Sophia Vergara, who introduced Miranda Lambert; Chris Kyle's wife, Tara, who introduced Garth Brooks; and Steven Tyler, who presented the Entertainer of the Year award to winner Luke Bryan.
Kelly Clarkson presented Reba with her Milestone award, calling her "the coolest mother-in-law." Clarkson is married to McEntire's stepson, Brandon Blackstock, with whom she recently had a baby.
After the show, Lambert choked up over her hometown roots.
"I was proud in general of the show being here, all the artists and all the fans get to see exactly what we're about in Texas," she said. "The crowd was so warm and so excited. It made me happy because I'm from around here."
Alex Bentley contributed to this story.