When certain Saskatchewan fans took umbrage that their beloved Craven Country Jamboree had been renamed Country Thunder Saskatchewan, they took to social media to rail against “those Americans who had initiated the image switch”. Gerry Krochak and Troy Vollhoffer, the targets in question, had to laugh.
These two good ole Regina boys are about as far from Americans as you get and although, Vollhoffer, in particular has enjoyed multi-million-dollar success growing and establishing his Premier Global Productions as one of North America’s top touring production companies (utilized by the likes of Metallica, Rush, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Tim McGraw and major concert tours like Lolapalooza)), it has been their efforts in reviving one Canadian Country Music Festival (Craven’ Country Music Jamboree), launching a new festival in Calgary in 2016 and also revamping two U.S festivals (Florence Arizona & Wisconsin’s Twin Lakes festivals), which has caused a major industry buzz.
As for opposition by the Calgary Stampede? “We haven’t sensed any,” Krochak allowed. “Maybe they are too big to be bothered with us but as far as we are concerned, our festival is staged six weeks after the Stampede so we are just another summer event. The Calgary Stampede is one of the greatest outdoor exhibitions in the world – we just complement them.”
As a former writer for the Regina Leader Post and later with the Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun, Krochak had stayed in close contact with his Saskatchewan pal, Vollhoffer, and as Vollhoffer expanded his franchise into Calgary, Krochak was recruited to join the team. “For the first Calgary festival, I was given the position as general manager but as my prowess does not extend to figuring out how many porta-potties we need and how to position security, I realized my skills as a journalist better served me as the event’s marketing director. I get to write all the press releases and deal with the media.
Krochak noted that Vollhoffer was particularly delighted to revive the Craven Country Jamboree which had started life as the Craven Big Valley Jamboree, a charity event established by Father Lucien Larré in 1983 to raise funds for his Bosco Homes children’s charities. The Kinsmen Club continued the event as Rock N The Valley rock festival until 2004 when organizers stepped in and re-established The Craven Country Jamboree as an country music event in 2005.
“Troy and I were both aware of this really cool location in the Qu Appelle Valley just east of Regina and so it was great that he stepped in, took over the event and in 2017, re-branded it as Saskatchewan Country Thunder.”
Having similarly refreshed and renamed the Florence Arkansas and Twin Lakes Wisconsin events as Country Thunder Arkansas Country Thunder Wisconsin, Vollhoffer is now head of a thriving country music franchise. A circuit of venues which allows him to package key performers between the festivals.
“Troy usually tries to position one key performer at two or three festivals and rotate other performers between the shows to make things cost efficient,” explained Krochak. “We were lucky to get Blake Shelton for three shows last year and in 2018 we have Toby Keith, Luke Bryant, Dierks Bentley and Eric Church splitting the shows.”
Being from Regina, both Krochak and Vollhoffer are supportive of Canadian talent, book Canadian artists on their domestic shows and even export key performers to their two U.S festivals; Dallas Smith and High Valley both benefiting from recent exposure.
“Of course not every Canadian artist can succeed in the States but it is great when you see a band like (Northern Alberta’s) High Valley or Dallas Smith perform and all of the kids are singing their songs,” enthused Krochak.”
Next year’s key beneficiary will be Calgary’s Lindsay Ell who is set to perform at all four festivals. “She’s a former blues guitarist and when she walks on stage in her `Daisy Dukes’ and starts playing lead guitar on that purple Les Paul, it’s hard not to take her seriously,” Krochak enthused. “It’s the same with Madeline Merlo and Jess Moskaluke, they are both playing our Alberta show and I think Canadian country women are going to be the next super stars.”
Krochak informs that the Country Thunder Festival franchise is mandated to expand to further U.S and Canadian locations but he is also predicting that a classic rock festival franchise may also blossom sooner than later.
Country Thunder Arizona– April 5-8 – Florence Arizona
Country Thunder Wisconsin July 19-July 22 Twin Lakes Wisconsin
Country Thunder Saskatchewan July 12-25 Craven Saskatchewan
County Thunder Alberta August 17-19 Calgary Prairie Winds Park
For ticket information on any of the above Country Thunder events please link to countrythunder.com.