When the organizers attached the name “Country Thunder” to the four-day music festival, they probably were hoping the “thunder” would describe the music than the weather.
But the spring storm that rolled through yesterday afternoon during opening day of the first Country Thunder USA event held in Texas highlighted the strongest performance of the festival — that of Mother Nature.
With the combination of heavy rains Thursday and Friday, organizers of Country Thunder have canceled performances by Bomshel, Lantana, Corb Lund and ChrisYoung. The gates will not open until 3 p.m. today.
As of this morning, Trick Pony was scheduled to take the stage at 4 p.m., with John Anderson to follow at 5:45, Neal McCoy at 7, Randy Rogers Band at 8:30 and Pat Green at 10:30.
Thursday’s event started nice enough, with Western Underground taking the stage under sunny skies. But by the time Reckless Kelly took the stage at 3:15 yesterday afternoon, the thunderheads were building to the west, promising rain, heavy winds and a damp opening night for acts such as Kevin Fowler, Gretchen Wilson, Phil Vassar and Big & Rich.
The early hours of the event, which will showcase favorite mainstream country artists as well as acts famous in Texas Country through Sunday, started slow, with vendors making the finishing touches on their displays as a few eager festival-goers settled into their seats. Western Underground played in the background as Country Thunder staff wiped the dust off seats assigned for VIP and reserved ticket holders.
Reckless Kelly took the stage with a modest crowd, but addressed the small crowd as if there were thousands in the seats, playing songs from their latest album, as well as a Buddy Holly cover.
Ben Mandeville, Judy Mandeville and Michelle Kidd set up their lounge chairs right behind the fence separating the reserved seats and general admission during the Reckless Kelly set.
“I like this band. Do you know who this is?” Kidd, of Waxahachie, asked neighboring loungers. Kidd admitted she didn’t know all the bands playing, but was happy to sit and listen.
“I’m glad they’re finally doing something like this in Texas,” Kidd said, saying she had been to other big music festivals in other states.
Ben and Judy, of Sherman, and Kidd had tickets for Thursday only, but within an hour of arriving and settling in for the day, they were contemplating camping all four days next year.
“The weather is nice so far,” Ben said, looking to the west where the storm was slowly building. “So far everyone has been real nice.”
The three were eagerly awaiting performances by Gretchen Wilson and Big & Rich, who took the stage a little later than scheduled Thursday night.
Although the vendors were preparing for the oncoming storm early Thursday afternoon, they were still looking forward to the rest of the weekend. Many are veteran vendors at the Wisconsin and Arizona Country Thunder USA events.
In the Rhinestone Cowgirl tent Beverly Hills and Don Bird, of Beverly Hills, Calif., displayed cowboy and cowgirl hats that differed from the traditional style.
“We sell dressy hats,” Hills said, pointing to her hats in pink and black, some embellished with crystal, others with skull and cross bones. “I cater to the Texas cowgirls and cowboys.”
Hills said she has sold hats to Toby Keith’s clothing store, as well as to Carrie Underwood and to Tim McGraw’s three daughters.
Hills said she thought her hats would be a hit at the Texas event because, “all the fun, all the excitement happens in Texas,” adding that the crystal embellishments would attract “Texas divas.”
“We’re the only ones that sell the Indiana Jones cowboy and cowgirl hats — they’re kind of shaggy,” Hills said.
Hills and Bird have been vendors at the Arizona and Wisconsin Country Thunder events and praised the organizers of the event.
“They’re phenomenal events. The talent is exceptional,” Hills said. “We’re really excited about Texas. We think Big & Rich and Reba will bring them in.”
Vendors were selling anything and everything at the event, including handmade furniture, fishing poles, kettle corn and henna tattoos.
“I liked Arizona, so I’m trying to get to all three,” said Henna Body Art artist Jessica Hirmer of Minnesota. “I’m trying to be the Country Thunder henna lady that everyone remembers.”
Hirmer offers henna body art using the natural, reddish brown henna. She has been a vendor at Screams and is working her way through all three Country Thunder events.
The Rising Star Recording Studio offers a chance for the average Joe to record their own CD, with 30,000 songs available to record.
“It’s just fun for all ages — young and old. We’ve got kids songs and the current Top 40 songs,” Rick White said.
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