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From Eric Church to Florida Georgia Line -
County Thunder keeps on rollin' through the storm

Country Thunder 2016
Shadow Hill Ranch
Twin Lakes, WI
July 21 - 24, 2016


Review by Bill Stephens
Photos by Phil Bonyata & Bill Stephens


Florida Georgia Line
Florida Georgia Line (PB)
Haley Georgia
Haley Georgia (PB)
Jake Owen
Jake Owen (PB)
THUNDER DAY 1


Country Thunder day one was not lacking in excitement as the temperatures and heat indices reached into dangerous levels. The music started off with opening acts that did not disappoint with Main stage acts of David Ray and Ryan Hurd and the Cabana Boathouse stage featuring Dylan Jakobsen, Stroker Red and Saddlebrook. After the previously mentioned acts performed a heavy storm system was approaching the area and Country Thunder was evacuated for the safety of the guests as well as the performers waiting to go on. The entire festival grounds were completely cleared and everyone was asked to either return to their camping area or wait out the storm in their vehicles. As the storm delivered it's predicted copious amounts of rain, leaving mud and puddles in both the festival grounds and the parking areas. The lightning and the wind that accompanied the storm with gusts up to 65 MPH toppled temporary fencing on the grounds and provided a light show only Mother Nature could create and hardcore Storm Chasers would appreciate.

After about four hours and with the rain letting up albeit still showing alot of activity on radar and the lightning continuing the management made the tough decision to cancel the remaining performances for the day and no choice but look forward to day two. For those that had purchased one day tickets and parking were offered another day in exchange for tonight's lost performances.

While management worked to keep patrons safe there were difficulties encountered. Cell service provider's networks became jammed due to families checking up on each other and delays in text messaging on all providers started to increase with the load. One carrier in particular always has trouble, in fact AT&T has the poorest service of all, every year after 6 p.m. during all four days of the festival and even some pre-days the network is not useable. Yesterday was no exception as I noticed a problem early on in the day and this will be the fifth year I have called them and requested that they respond with one of their many portable cell sites. For those that are unaware all cell companies have trailer mounted cell sites that are capable of being deployed in the event of a disaster to either replace a damaged cell tower or to reinforce the network to alleviate overload due to an extraordinary event. For five years I have notified them of this event and it has fallen on deaf ears. Yesterday between 10 and 30 thousand people were asked to evacuate due to extreme weather. All of AT&T's customers were unable to contact friends and family members to coordinate meeting up to either leave the grounds or shelter in their vehicles.

This was exactly the scenario I put forth to the AT&T representative I spoke with. I was told I would be receiving a call from someone on their team as he escalated my call. No call was ever received nor were there any voicemails left. I guess even though this area is listed as having full coverage their map is not telling the truth and even if you complain to them you get ignored.

The one bright spot? Verizon, AT&T's closest competitor does bring out a portable cell tower and even adds broadband coverage so that their customers and local police can use their regular services without issue. I guess AT&T will continue to NOT 'have more bars in more places,' instead will strive to ignore and put customers at risk while collecting fees for services that aren't reliable.

THUNDER DAY 2


As I sit down to recap day two, I consider the entire day as a success as it all appeared to come off without a hitch. Well except for the oppressive heat and humidity. The first thing I noticed was upon my return to the Premium or "reserved" parking lot was the paths of mud that used to be a nicely groomed farm field. A blindfolded person would even know it was a farm field as the combination of the heat, humidity and heavy rains from the night before seems to have activated the years of (Shall we say NATURAL) fertilizer that had been applied and the odor in places was quite strong. But hey - it is COUNTRY THUNDER and we now have both the sweet pungent smell of the country and with the first days weather events we certainly had the thunder.

It's a bit cloudy this morning, however (you were waiting for that) the outside temp is a balmy 84 degrees but the real feel with heat index 109. Enough said about that! It is just plain uncomfortable but fans of county music do not give up that easy.

Day Two's entertainment at the main stage made for slim a variety of today's popular pop country with the six acts performing there seeming to be just what the crowd wanted. Headliner Florida Georgia Line ended the evening putting on a show that featured their most popular music (a rather uninspiring blend of pop, country and rap) plus a light and effects show to help with the visual senses. If you still didn't get enough live music the Cabana Boathouse stage provided even more entertainment with seven more acts ending with Bella Cain at 1 a.m. for the night owls that still wanted to party.

Florida Georgia Line
Florida Georgia Line (PB)
Florida Georgia Line
Florida Georgia Line (PB)
Florida Georgia Line
Florida Georgia Line (PB)
Florida Georgia Line
Florida Georgia Line (PB)
Florida Georgia Line
Florida Georgia Line (PB)
Florida Georgia Line
Florida Georgia Line (PB)
Florida Georgia Line
Florida Georgia Line (PB)
Haley Georgia
Haley Georgia (PB)
Haley Georgia
Haley Georgia (PB)
Haley Georgia
Haley Georgia (PB)
country fans
country fans (PB)
Haley Georgia
Haley Georgia (PB)
Haley Georgia
Haley Georgia (PB)
Parmalee
Parmalee (PB)
Haley Georgia
Haley Georgia (PB)
Parmalee
Parmalee (PB)
Parmalee
Parmalee (PB)
Parmalee
Parmalee (PB)
Parmalee
Parmalee (PB)
extreme heat
cooling off in the extreme heat (PB)
cooling off
cooling off in the extreme heat (PB)
Parmalee
Parmalee (PB)
The Bellamy Brothers
The Bellamy Brothers (PB)
The Bellamy Brothers
The Bellamy Brothers (PB)
THUNDER DAY 3


> The day opened with continued oppressive heat and humidity with the main stage act Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys. This band is full of energy and has a stage presence and entertainment level to rival most of today's headliners. The second act - Casee Allen was another surprise with more high level energy and audience interaction. Both of these acts performed at a headliner level and I felt it was not fair to them as when both went on there were more media photographers in the reserved area than actual ticket holders.

Joe Diffie was up next and as he always does not disappoint with his standard fare of music from his library. While I was only able to view this show from a monitor as a mishap took me out of the game for this and the last two shows of the day. While walking through a gravel area my foot that had been stepped on a bruised the night before rolled and down I went down Cameras and all - not only did I lose some equipment you can imagine all 300 pounds and 6'3" of me hurling to the ground. I tried to tuck and roll but while doing so I landed on some of my equipment effectively crushing it and bruising my ribs gaining some much earned road rash and loss of pride all at the same time.

I forced myself through the discomfort to attend the Granger Smith show which he always entertains in the multiple times I have seen him but I then had to pack up and head out to be checked out and get much needed pain killers. Thunder did receive a fair amount of rain during Chris Janson's set and while I have not received all of the details. Jake Owen soldiered go on even though there was a lot rain and some lightning.

Yes today will be brought to you by Percocet. These accidents never happen on Monday - always on a day and time after all of the claims offices are closed.

Casee Allen
Casee Allen (BS)
Casee Allen
Casee Allen (BS)
Jake Owen
Jake Owen (PB)
Jake Owen
Jake Owen (PB)
Jake Owen
Jake Owen (PB)
Granger Smith
Granger Smith (PB)
Granger Smith
Granger Smith (PB)
Granger Smith
Granger Smith (PB)
THUNDER DAY 4


Day four opened a bit early this year as WEBG BIG 95.5 Chicago radio station's Big Break Winner Jerica Paliga (21) from Chesterton Indiana was to take the main stage as one of the benefits of winning the contest. While I was on site I was handling other commitments at the time and was unable to attend her performance.

Next up was Courtney Cole originally from Mandeville, Louisiana has a strong voice and stage presence that will draw in any audience. Even in the oppressive heat she made it look easy as she performed with amazing energy. Terri Clark, one of my personal favorites, followed Courtney and brought her Canadian country style and her most popular music along for the ride. She even wore a Green Bay Packers Jersey in support of the local crowd.

As the main stage area filled A Thousand Horses added to the temperature with their full sound and roots/country performance. Thomas Rhett then played a set that included a number of his hits including "Die A Happy Man" and ended his set with "Crash and Burn." His connection with the audience was was a natural gift and the seats filled rapidly as he drew in the audience.

Tonight's main event was a performance by Eric Church which included all the bells and whistles. A light show to match the music, the sound mixing was as flawless as it could be at an open air festival and Eric brought his "A" game to the audience with his truly top entertainment quality. A fitting end to this year's Country Thunder and to sum it up HOT, HOTTER and HOTTEST! We missed any measurable rain on Sunday which kept everything on schedule and started to dry up the mud bogs that had been created over the last few days.

Till Next year...

For everything Country Thunder and to order 2017 tickets visit www.countrythunder.com.
Terri Clark
Terri Clark (BS)
Terri Clark
Terri Clark (BS)
Thomas Rhett
Thomas Rhett (PB)
Thomas Rhett
Thomas Rhett (PB)
Thomas Rhett
Thomas Rhett (PB)
Thomas Rhett
Thomas Rhett (PB)
Thomas Rhett
Thomas Rhett
Thomas Rhett
Thomas Rhett (PB)

kiddin' around
kiddin' around (BS)
coolin' off
coolin' off (PB)
Eric Church
Eric Church (BS)
Eric Church
Eric Church (BS)
A Thousand Horses
A Thousand Horses (BS)
Eric Church tour bus
Eric Church tour bus (PB)
A Thousand Horses
A Thousand Horses (BS)
A Thousand Horses
A Thousand Horses (BS)
Courtney Cole
Courtney Cole (BS)
Courtney Cole
Courtney Cole (BS)
country characters
country characters (PB)
coolin' off
coolin' off (BS)

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Country Thunder 2016 (Arizona)
Country Thunder 2015
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Country Thunder 2014
Country Thunder 2013
Country Thunder 2012
Country Thunder 2011
Country Thunder 2010
Country Thunder 2009
Country Thunder 2008
Country Thunder 2007
Country Thunder 2006
Country Thunder 2005
Country Thunder 2004
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Country Thunder 2002
Country Thunder 2001

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