By Keith Sharp
Thursday, July 14, sees the return of Country Thunder – Craven, Saskatchewan, with the likes of Morgan Wallen, Lee Brice and the legendary Tanya Tucker joining forces with domestic talent Chad Brownlee, Washboard Union and Lindsay Ell for the first of three Canadian festivals that will also feature the official début of Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose Alberta July 28-31 and the Calgary Country Thunder Festival August 19-21 at a new downtown location at Fort Calgary.
Director of Marketing and Promotion Gerry Krochak reports that Canada seems to have rebounded from the COVID scare, which disrupted the previous two years domestically and that all three events are virtual sell-outs.
Krochak and Country Thunder president Troy Vollhoffer, two Saskatchewan promoters who sparked the whole Country Thunder franchise in 1996 by taking over festivals in Wisconsin and Arizona and then expanded by taking over the Craven Saskatchewan event in 2005, have now developed the concept to include additional U.S festivals in, Forest City Iowa, Kissimmee, Florida, and Bristol, Tennesse. These multiple venues allow them to block book major talent but also spotlight up-and-coming names and mix in local talent to present a great balance at their festivals.
“When you are booking for multiple festivals, you are looking for artists that suit that particular market,” noted Krochak. “So, it’s a great balance when we can mix established artists with up-and-coming Canadian and local talent. We are excited to be able to book Lee Brice and Morgan Wallen together.“
Complementing artists Wallen, Brice and Blake Shelton in Craven is a strong Canadian contingent which features Chad Brownlee, Washboard Union and Lindsay Ell, plus the legendary Tanya Tucker and hot-raising talents like McKenzie Porter, Hardy and Kameron Marlowe. “We are especially excited about Kameron Marlowe,” Krochak enthused. “We have already featured him on a couple of other shows, and he appears to be a potential headliner in the future.”
The fact that all Country Thunder shows have a reputation for mixing upcoming talent with established artists has been a winning formula for the festival. “People come early and stay late because they know they are going to see a wide variety of talent,” Krochak noted, “Artists like Eric Church and Lee Brice used to be 1 o clock and 2 o clock bands, but now they are established, headliners.”
Krochak is particularly proud that their Calgary Country Thunder has established itself as a compliment to the Calgary Stampede as opposed to direct competition. “No one in their right mind is going to compete with the Stampede, but we provide an additional event for those who love Country Music, and it’s great that we can stage the last great party of the summer.”
“Our first festival in Calgary in 2016 sold out immediately, so we knew we were on to something, and now we have moved the festival downtown to our new Fort Calgary location; this year’s festival will be bigger than ever,” Krochak boasted, noting that Florida-Georgia Line and local favourites, High Valley and Aaron Goodvin have been added to the lineup. “We listen to what our fans want to hear, and a lot of people wanted Florida-Georgia Line. So, with High Valley and Aaron Goodvin also on the bill, we are really excited about this year’s lineup.
This year also marks the debut of the Camrose Big Valley Jamboree being taken over by the Country Thunder organization. Established in 1993 and has previously played host to most Country mega stars, including Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings and is now being promoted as Alberta’s Ultimate Camping Festival. Although Big Valley was another victim of the pandemic, Krochuk is aware that his company’s commitment is to live up to the Jamboree’s legacy.
“We have Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins, Eric Church, and Canadian talents like Dallas Smith, Terri Clark, Michelle Wright and the James Barker Band, so we have a lineup that’s a little different from Craven and Calgary,” Krochak noted. “So, we are trying to get a Calgary Flames – Edmonton Oilers rivalry going between Calgary and Big Valley, but we are already aware of people who have bought tickets to both festivals.”
Krochak and Vollhoffer may have faced difficult financial and logistic challenges over the past two years in Canada, but they have been able to maintain their U.S.A. festivals which are now on sale for 2023 and have been encouraged by the overwhelming response to their Canadian festivals.
For more information on all of the above festivals, please link to https://www.countrythunder.com