Carrie Underwood by Denise Truscello/WireImage.com
The Academy of Country Music Awards opened with a fitting song,
's Vegas-inspired hit about a drunken night's nuptials, "Last Name."
Underwood would go on to win Top Female Artist at the 43rd installment of the ACMAs at the MGM Grand Garden Arena May 18 in Las Vegas. Before the show, stars walked the orange carpet, many making a trip to a crowd of fans who waited hours in the record 104-degree heat to get an autograph.
signed a copy of an
CD given to her by a fan, laughing and holding it up for photographers. "I love what
did for me," Pickler said. "But it goes fast."
The very pregnant
made a surprise appearance with her husband
. The pair spent the most time with the fans, shaking hands and offering thanks to all those that were shouting their congratulations on her pregnancy. "Thank you, I feel good," Kidman told one well-wisher as she made her way from one side of the 20-foot, roped-off fan area to the other. They quickly walked the orange carpet, posing for photographs before taking their seats moments before the show went live on the East Coast.
was a favorite, taking home the Top New Female Artist award. Swift performed her hit "Should Have Said No" under a torrent of water that fell from above and soaked her clingy black dress. "This makes missing prom so OK," she gushed of her award on stage. Backstage was buzzing with winners, who held their awards aloft and congratulated each other. Other winners included Rascal Flatts for Top Vocal Group, who also took home Humanitarian of the Year, Brooks & Dunn for Top Vocal Duo, Brad Paisley for Top Male Vocalist and Lady Antebellum for Top New Vocal Duo or Group.
won Entertainer of the Year for the fourth consecutive year, tying him with previous winner Garth Brooks, who was the first to win the newly created Crystal Milestone lifetime award from the academy this year. This year was also a first for a somewhat controversial style of choosing the Entertainer of the Year Award, in which fans voted.
"I think it's a complete disrespect to the artist," Chesney said after the show, however he originally thanked fans on stage. "You don't stand up here because you pushed somebody's buttons on the Internet, you earn it."
- Kim McGee