"This is one of the coolest nights of my entire life," Kelsea Ballerini told a packed Grand Ole Opry House on Tuesday night, as the 25-year-old officially became its youngest member.
"This is probably where I should say something very eloquent," Ballerini told the crowd, after an emotional introduction from Carrie Underwood. "We can all agree that life moves pretty fast, right? I think especially since I moved to Nashville, I had this big dream to do all of these kinds of things."
"There's rarely been a moment that's made me just stop and take a minute and be grateful and look up," Ballerini continued. "One that I remember is February 14, 2015 and that is when I made my Opry debut. And one is right now."
"I just want to say that it's so nice and comforting to know that no matter where life takes me and no matter if the radio stops playing me tomorrow and whatever happens, that I can always come here and I can always play country music," she added.
During Kelsea's induction, Carrie summed up what the Opry means: "This is the heart and soul of country music," she proclaimed, before the two duetted on Trisha Yearwood's "Walkaway Joe."
"The Opry has been and will always be, here, the heart and soul of country music, the family. You are in it."
"Congratulations," Underwood said, beaming. "Welcome to the family."
CMA and ACM Entertainer of the Year Keith Urban gave his former tour mate, Ballerini, his seal of approval by singing his hit, "Blue Ain't Your Color."
Country Music Hall of Famer Vince Gill sat sidestage and watched as Ballerini performed "Peter Pan" and "Miss Me More." Opry matriarch Jeannie Seely leaned against Gill as Ballerini sang.
Earlier in the night, Ballerini remembered the first time she walked onto the legendary stage, prior to her February 2015 debut. "The curtain was down..." she told reporters, "and we walked in, and I looked..."
"I'm gonna cry! Oh God," Kelsea interrupted herself. "I just walked in and did this," she continued, wiping away tears.
The Knoxville native admitted she was "emotionally overwhelmed" at such a momentous night.
"Darius Rucker just tweeted me on the way in here, which is not casual," she explained. "And then, Carrie's inducting me tonight, which I don't know if I'm supposed to say. Sorry!" she said, laughing.
"I wouldn't know what it looks like to be a female in country music without Carrie Underwood," Kelsea added. "She's the one for me that I've always looked up to."