Rain and mud combined to shut down the last day of Country Thunder USA on Sunday afternoon, with event organizers saying they would be contacting customers within the next 10 business days about a possible refund.
Unprecedented spring rains over the four days of the mega-concert, held in an open field south of Waxahachie, put potholes in the gravel roads leading to the event and turned the general admission seating area into a quagmire of black Texas gumbo mud that was ankle deep in many places.
“We at Country Thunder USA regret to announce that we must cancel today’s show due to the heavy rains,” said a press release issued about 2:20 p.m. Sunday. “This act of God has made the grounds and surrounding roadways unsafe for our customers. Within 10 business days, we will contact all customers who purchased tickets from CTUSA to let them know what we will be able to do for them.”
Tickets had carried a disclaimer saying no refund, transfer or exchange was allowed. The ticket also said cancellation of or impact on the event due to an act of God did not reserve ticket holders a right of refund or obligate Country Thunder to provide a substitute performance.
On Saturday, a weather-delayed Country Thunder did get under way at 1:30 p.m. with the crowd donning ponchos and sitting in a misting rain. The afternoon cleared with Lorrie Morgan, Heartland and headliner Reba McEntire taking the stage.
At one point Morgan peered over the edge of the stage and commented on the mud.
“Look at all that mud!” said Morgan with a smile. “People pay lots of money for baths in this stuff. Ladies, you are lucky today.”
The hardcore country music fans who showed up didn’t seem to mind.
Reba McEntire took the stage with the field packed with screaming fans Saturday night.
“I want to thank you for coming out here in this weather and I want to make sure you get what you came for from me,” said McEntire, who came back out on stage at the end of her set for an encore singing the tune “Fancy.”
Country Thunder emcee Steve Wood told the fans from the stage Saturday afternoon that Country Thunder would be back next year.
“We are going to concrete the VIP area,” he said. “We’re going to look back and laugh and tell people we were here the first year.”
Wood also said there were “eight miles of country road improvements,” planned for the area making access to the venue easier.
Concertgoers were forced to travel on about four miles of gravel road to reach the event from Waxahachie.
Fans found themselves paying local farmers up to $45 to be pulled by tractors from the mud in the parking area to gravel roads leading out of the area.
The rain started Wednesday and Country Thunder opened Thursday in a massive hayfield off State Highway 34 between Avalon and Bardwell in southern Ellis County.
Thunderstorms moved through the venue Thursday, collapsing a tent and injuring one person slightly, and Friday’s concerts were officially cancelled.
Chris Young treated fans to an impromptu mini-concert Friday afternoon, when he pulled out an acoustic guitar and played a couple of songs for the crowd. Young also hung around after the event to sign autographs and have his picture taken with fans.
The decision to cancel Country Thunder on Friday was made after heavy rains saturated the black-gumbo earth at Thunder Ridge Ranch near Avalon.
Country Thunder officials said Friday tickets would be honored at Saturday’s or Sunday’s show and parking fees would be reimbursed by the business that sold the customer his or her ticket.
A one-day, general admission ticket to Country Thunder cost $59. Premium tickets and four-day event packages cost hundreds of dollars.
Country Thunder USA in Waxahachie was part of a three-venue series with other events held in Florence, Ariz., on April 12-15, and the summer’s last event slated for July 18, in Randall, Wis.
Tickets are still available for the Wisconsin event and more information can be found at www.countrythunder.com. Call (262) 279-6960 for concert details.