Wednesday's 38th annual Academy of Country Music Awards was full of patriotic gestures: Darryl Worley sang ''Have You Forgotten'' in front of a battle-scarred American flag, Lonestar brought onstage three freed POWs from the war in Iraq, and the absent Dixie Chicks were roundly booed whenever their names were mentioned. The outspoken trio, who performed ''Truth No. 2'' from Austin, Texas, via satellite, were also shut out of the prizes, though they had been nominated for three awards.
Reba McEntire, who hosted the show from Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay casino (it aired live on CBS), told reporters afterwards that the Chicks had received a ''pretty big negative response.'' But Vince Gill, who mumbled the Chicks' name when reading the nominees for Entertainer of the Year, said the response ''wasn't near as volatile'' as it was during last month's Flameworthy Awards in Nashville. (The Chicks skipped that ceremony too.) Still, after hearing the boos, he told the audience, ''Stop it, Stop it. You know who gets blessed when you forgive: you.''
Toby Keith won the top prize, Entertainer of the Year. Curiously, the ''Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue'' singer had left the auditorium by the time his prize was announced. Maybe he didn't expect to win, since he was up for eight awards and had lost seven. Besides, the voters spread the wealth pretty evenly. Only Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, and Rascal Flatts, with two hat-shaped trophies apiece, won more than one award. Chesney won Top Male Vocalist and Single of the Year (''Good Stuff''). Jackson won Album of the Year (''Drive'') and Video of the Year (for the title track). Rascal Flatts won Song of the Year (''I'm Movin' On'') and Top Vocal Group.
Other big winners included Martina McBride (Top Female Vocalist of the Year) and top New Artists Joe Nichols (Male), Kellie Coffey (Female) and Emerson Drive (Duo or Group). Career achievement awards went to Alabama and George Strait.