August 17, 18, 19, 2018
Some serious partyin’ was going down in north east Calgary. Line dancin’, redneckin’ drinkin’, yehawin’ and plain ol’ good vibes were in the air as the Country Thunder Festival finished this year’s run at Prairie Winds Park. Three other dates take place yearly in Arizona, Wisconsin and Saskatchewan. These are larger festivals with up to 20 acres of land available and full weekend camping. The production team considers Calgary’s event to be more of a “boutique” version. Calgary’s may be the smallest of the venues, but the enthusiasm of the concert goers was anything but small.
The weather was somewhat cooler than normal, the air forest fire smoky, but there was plenty of heat coming from the stage. Long time comedy duo Williams and Ree hosted the proceedings and kept the crowd amused between acts. There was an even helping of Canadian and American talent on the main stage. Representing north of the border: Dean Brody, Jess Moskaluke, Chad Brownlee, Madeline Merlo, Hunter Brothers, Drew Gregory, Ryan Lindsay and Renegade Station. From the south: Restless Heart, Kentucky Headhunters, Bryan White, Midland, The Cadillac Three, and each evenings headliners: Dierks Bentley, Eric Church and Toby Keith. For country music fans, this is a big deal. To be honest, I couldn’t be there to watch every act, but of the acts I did see, honourable mention goes to The Cadillac Three (Led Zeppelin infused good old boy stuff) and Dean Brody (smooth, tight and commanding). The odd minor technical glitch which was handled swiftly by the crack sound team, and the roll over between acts was efficient and quick.
Honourable mention must also go to Country Thunder L.L.C and Gerry Krochak and his team. Making a festival like this work is a huge undertaking and this
event worked slicker than greased goose poop (redneck colloquialism inserted for effect). Security and police presence were pretty high (sadly necessary these days), but it was all smiles, and the fans were not disappointed. A secondary stage featured some local acts, a song writing circle and line dancing lessons. Always something interesting gong on.
All in all, the Country Thunder weekend was a great success of top quality entertainment, production and organization. These were three days which many country fans will remember fondly, while others may struggle to, as they sleep the weekend off.
Keith A. McTaggart Charles Hope * Photos