By Keith Sharp
Country Thunder marketing and public relations chief, Gerry Krochak certainly has his hands full as his organization prepares for the first of seven scheduled festivals across the United States and Canada.
At the time of this interview, Krochuk was confident that their Florida Country Thunder event scheduled for March 27-29 at Kissimmee was a go as are future festivals in Arizona, Iowa, Wisconsin plus Canadian festivals in Craven Saskatchewan, Calgary and Camrose Alberta.
On top of the recent tornado which struck central Tennessee and devastated parts of Nashville, Krowchak has been under the gun as the Country Thunder franchise, headed by fellow Saskatchewan native Troy Vollhoffer prepare for a new season.
“It’s something we are aware of and are concerned about, but as of now, everything is a go,” the Regina native noted as he phoned in from Kissimmee. “We are operating in the shadows of Disney World so we are monitoring what is happening there.”
With a Florida lineup featuring the likes of Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, Kane Brown and Canadian stars Dallas Smith and Meghan Patrick, Krochak is hopeful that Country Thunder’s series of concerts will somehow go ahead uninterrupted. Aside from Florida, the franchise is set to execute in Florence, Arizona-April 16-19, Forest City, Iowa-June 12-14, Craven, Saskatchewan-June 9-12, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin-July 16-19, Camrose, Big Valley-July 30-Aug 2 and Calgary, Alberta-Aug 21-23.
Since taking over the Arizona and Wisconsin festivals in 2005 and adding Craven Saskatchewan that year, former Pittsburgh Penguins NHL draftee, Vollhoffer has developed the Country Thunder franchise to be the dominant Country Music operation in North America. As the owner of the Nashville-based Premier Global Productions (one of America’s top concert productions operations), Vollhoffer, a Saskatoon native, as created an operation that melds top names with hot new artists through a revolving series of festivals.
“We take pride in presenting a balance of hot artists and timely up and comers that we continue to develop,” enthused Krochak. “I have an old Craven poster that listed Eric Church and Luke Bryan as unknown artists and look where they are now.”
Being from Saskatchewan, Krochak and Vollhoffer take pride in promoting Canadian talent which they are able to expose to the U.S market via their American festivals. Dallas Smith and Meghan Patrick are set to benefit from this exposure in 2020 with performances at Florida, Arizona and Iowa with Patrick also set to perform in Wisconsin.
The likes of James Barker Band, Washboard Union, Terri Clark and Chad Brownlee are also set to perform at the Canadian venues and Krochak also confirmed that Toronto’s Johnson’s Creek will receive a showcase at Calgary’s Country Thunder (performing at the festival’s opening night party at the legendary Ranchman’s Nightclub plus two nights on the Country 105 Stage while Toque (featuring former Age Of Electric frontman, Todd Kerns) is set to go at Craven’s Sunday night party.
“The bands that play earlier in the day or the bands that play on our secondary stages are always worth checking out. It’s like discovering your new favourite band,” Krochak added. “These are the headliners of tomorrow.”
Krochak notes that while some established festivals may be experiencing difficulties, The Country Thunder concept works because there are some consistencies with all of their festivals. “We succeed because we focus our attention on the fans and we continue to create that special concert experience. The last thing people want when they spend their hard-earned money is to be confronted with dirty washrooms and long lineups. We realize that it’s more challenging than just throwing up a stage and booking a bunch of bands. When people come to our shows we want them to have the greatest time they have had all summer.”
This year’s festival lineup features established stars like Keith Urban, Eric Church, Dan + Shay, Old Dominion and even classic Country Rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd but it’s the new talent that excites Krochak. “We have Luke Combs who is just an unstoppable force. He is being described as the second coming of Garth Brooks. Every show he does is lights out.”
Krochak paid homage to the residents of Nashville who suffered through that devastating tornado which didn’t strike Vollhoffer’s head office but did take out places like the Basement music venue, which was a favourite local musical hangout.
“You have a heavy heart when Mother Nature deals a blow like that,” noted Krochak. “But the people of Nashville are very defiant and very strong-willed. They will bounce back.”
For festival lineups and ticket information, please link to https://www.countrythunder.com