1 of 10
After a tribute from singers like Reba McEntire, Jennifer Nettles, Carrie Underwood and Kacey Musgraves, the star accepted her Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award teary-eyed. "Wow, what a tribute," she quipped. "I would've cried but I didn't want to mess up my eyelashes."
2 of 10
BILLY RAY CYRUS
Cyrus poked a bit of fun at himself, appearing in a skit with hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood in the same outfit he wore when he accepted his 1992 single of the year award for "Achy Breaky Heart" — a sleeveless shirt and tight jeans. "You look back and go, 'Wow. How did you ever leave the house thinking, This looks pretty cool!'? But it's fun to have fun with that," he told PEOPLE. Cyrus recalled how his song, and the CMA honor, transformed his life. "Before I won that CMA Award, I lived in my Chevy Beretta. I had 10 years of being told no and then all of a sudden I'm sitting with Garth's mom at the CMAs. And by the way, she was the sweetest woman ever! She was so nice to me. In the commercial break, she'd tell me jokes."
3 of 10
"John and I hardly made it to the stage — we were about to just roll out crying on the floor," T.J. told PEOPLE of the duo's surprise win over Florida Georgia Line. "We had no speech prepared. We probably drank a little too much. We had no idea this was going to happen. And I'm still waiting to wake up." The real-life brothers fessed up to drinking beer, whisky and "a little vodka" before the ceremony, "and I'm glad we didn't hold off!" John said. "I would have been more nervous."
4 of 10
The "Hell of a Night" singer walked the carpet with his date — his mom — and got the memo to step it up in the wardrobe department, sporting a Dolce & Gabbana tux.
5 of 10
As the album of the year winner (for Mr. Misunderstood) took the stage to accept his award, presenter Faith Hill adjusted his tie. "I don't know which is better, this or Faith Hill helping me fix my bowtie," the singer told the crowd, before sending out love to his fans.
6 of 10
/* Style Definitions */
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
As a Hollywood actress, The Goldbergs star may have been an outsider to the country crowd, but she was on point fashion-wise with her frothy gown and dark lips.
7 of 10
"I don't think I took things for granted then, but there is a level of gratitude that is unbelievable just because you're able to do this still this late in your career," Brooks told PEOPLE of winning the entertainer of the year award 25 years after he last won it. His career restart after taking time off for his family was inspiring too, he said. "There you are [at the beginning], a crazy kid like everybody else, and you get lucky, and you have your run. Then you leave, you raise your babies, 15, 16 years and then say, 'I'd like to come back.' And they show up!"
8 of 10
"I was coming down from my performance when they read my name," Morris told PEOPLE about her tearful acceptance of her best new artist award. "I was already on an emotional high and about to burst into tears from that incredible moment and I didn't quite get it back together by the time I walked on stage. Obviously! But I'm not sorry – I was so overwhelmed with emotion, knowing my parents were in the audience, and my boyfriend and all these legends."
9 of 10
One of the night's most moving moments came early on when Travis joined a host of stars on stage for a medley of country hits, including his 1987 classic "Forever and Ever, Amen." The singer, who has been recovering from a stroke he suffered three years ago which left him unable to speak, left some in the audience in tears when he sang the song's final "Amen."
10 of 10
THOMAS RHETT & LAUREN AKINS
"To win on the show's 50th anniversary, where the first opening seven minutes were probably the coolest thing I've witnessed in my whole life … it's just a huge honor," Thomas said of his single of the year trophy for "Die a Happy Man," a song he wrote for his wife. "This is just very, very cool for our family."
How Blake Shelton Stopped RaeLynn from Giving Up: ‘I Think the World of Him’
Ring in the Christmas Spirit with Festive New Albums from Brett Eldredge, Kacey Musgraves and More!
Loretta Lynn on What Fame Cost Her: 'I'd Cry Being Away From My Family on the Holidays — You Never Catch Up the Lost Time'