Flashing her 100-watt smile, the Disney star, 16, paused and posed for the hundreds of camera-wielding, squealing adolescent fans jamming the walkway all the way to the rails of the parking garage next to the theater.
Children were the must-have accessories for the cavalcade of Music City VIPS who preceded Miley/Hannah down the carpet. Martina McBride, with Delaney, Emma and Ava, said, "I think the show is hilarious. My girls love it and I love that I don't have to worry about something inappropriate being slipped in on us."
Sara Evans, with new hubby Jay Barker and six of their seven kiddies, confessed, "We just put a flat-screen [TV] in our kitchen. I know it's redneck, but that's where we all hang out. I don't think that TV gets anything but Hannah Montana! It's on all the time. It's just cheesy enough to be funny, and it's not torture for grownups to watch."
Big's Little KidKenny Alphin (Big of Big & Rich), carrying 3-year-old son Lincoln, admitted to an ulterior motive. "We're here to find out if Hannah Montana is real," Alphin said in a stage whisper. "We heard a rumor that something's fishy, and Lincoln wants to know."
Lisa Hartman and Clint Black brought Lily Pearl, Amy Grant was accompanied by Corinna, Phil Vassar had a daughter – Presley and Haley – at the end of each arm, and Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelley scored points with fiancé Cassie McConnell's family when he scored a seat for her little sister.
Despite a dawn-to-dark day that began in New Orleans with Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa and would end hours later on stage at the Country Music Hall of Fame singing with dad Billy Ray Cyrus and songwriter Jeffrey Steele, Miley was already eagerly looking ahead to her next project, a film scripted for her by novelist Nicholas Sparks. The Last Song will begin shooting this summer in Savannah, minus Hannah Montana.
"It's a very different character. It's an awesome role, I am so excited about it," said the star of the evening. "I love a challenge and the opportunity to stretch myself and learn, and this will definitely give me that chance. I can't wait!"