By Kurt Wolff

A year ago, the Academy of Country Music promised that its 50th anniversary award show would be as big, bold, loud and proud as the state of Texas, where they planned to stage it for the first time ever.

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The show we witnessed last night (April 19) more than delivered on that promise.

Broadcast live from the massive AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (outside Dallas), the 50th ACM Awards ran for an astounding 3-1/2 hours. The funny thing is, though, even at that length there was almost too much to cram in. Fans saw strong performances by legends Garth BrooksRebaGeorge Strait and even a reformed Brooks & Dunn, as well as songs by what seemed like a who’s who of contemporary country, from A-listers including Luke BryanJason AldeanKenny Chesney and Miranda Lambert on down to newcomers such as Dan + Shay and Sam Hunt.

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And the stars on the stage and the red carpet included not just country artists but also Nick Jonas and Christina Aguilera (who each performed), Steven Tyler, Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara and an array of Dallas Cowboys football players and cheerleaders (fitting, since the venue is home to the Cowboys).

Speaking of Luke Bryan, he took home the Entertainer of the Year trophy this year, his second time winning that coveted award. The big difference this year? Instead of bursting into tears (as he did in 2013), he came bounding on the stage, thrilled, yes, but certainly acting more the part of the superstar he’s become these past couple years. (The only weirdness of this moment? The fact that his acceptance speech, for the premiere award of the entire ceremony, felt rushed, thanks no doubt to time constraints of the live broadcast.)

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In terms of sheer numbers, Lambert cleaned up tonight, taking home four awards, including Female Vocalist of the Year (which she’s won now six times in a row), Album of the Year for Platinum and Song of the Year for “Automatic.”

Lambert was also one of seven artists tonight who earned a Milestone Award from the Academy, recognizing outstanding career achievements in the genre. Taylor Swift was another Milestone winner, and her acceptance turned into one of the night’s most emotional moments, when she was presented the award by her mother Andrea (who it was just revealed has been diagnosed with cancer).

taylor swift mother andrea acm awardsTaylor Swift accepts the Milestone Award from her mother Andrea at the 50th ACM Awards (Ethan Miller/Getty Images for dcp)

The show, though, was filled with emotional moments. One of the standouts was certainly Garth Brooks’ performance of “All American Kid,” a song (written by country artist Craig Campbell) from his 2014 album Man Against Machine. B

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Read the full recap of the 50th ACM Awards on