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Spotlight On Country Thunder in Florence, Arizona
Photos by Glenda S. Paradee and Rob Ree Productions

Country Thunder was held April 12-15, 2012 on the 290 acres of Canyon Moon Ranch in Florence, Arizona.

This years line up was fantastic. Besides all the great music, this years festival also included a game-centered "Frat House," hosted by Williams & Ree. They also had DJ acts, more than 40 cornhole tables were set up for the beanbag-toss game, a mechanical bull, dueling pianos, and hypnotists. The after-hours party with bands continued until 2 a.m. nightly at Moonshine Willy's which has been developed into a year-round venue open Fridays and Saturdays. A bull-riding arena operated midnight to 2 a.m. adjacent to the saloon. A zip line and hot-air balloon rides were also new this year.   Also, this year the 2-mile road into the festival was paved.

Music was the main attraction at Country Thunder.

Day 1: Included Wade Bowen, Eli Young Band, Craig Morgan, and Dierks Bentley.

Williams & Ree: The sheer longevity of this dynamic duo has allowed them to attain legendary status and point up the fact that they are truly America's favorite comedy team!

Wade Bowen: Bowen says, "I like for everything to not be taken for granted. But I'm also not always serious, and when I play live, I want the audience to have a good a time as I do making music for them."


Eli Young Band: "Were always writing about what we're going through, and the type of song that appeals to us changes with our lives. We've been growing up together and going through the same phases really since college, and you can see some of that in this record. You can see that we're a little bit older."

Craig Morgan: "Something in my genes and my blood requires that I work - right or wrong, it makes me feel like a man," Morgan says with a laugh, "People ask me how I stay grounded... man, I go home and I still mow my own grass. I clean my own pool. I have kids that I get onto and play with and love the same as everybody else. I will always be that same guy. Just like the people who buy our records and listen to our music."


Dierks Bentley: "They invited me over to their houses for moonshine and picking parties and pot lucks," he says. "And they knew more about country music and Nashville and acoustic music than anyone on Music Row. Without that whole bluegrass community taking me in and helping me find my foundation, I would have had no place to start from."

Day 1


  • Hometown hero Dierks Bentley, Craig Morgan, Eli Young Band and Wade Bowen performed for a record first-day crowd of 17,575
  • 4,300 campsites SOLD OUT
  • New paved roads leading to Country Thunder ease travel for festival attendees
  • New Electric Thunder nightly shows featuring KMLE DJ mixers P Craze and DJ Iceman from Phoenix and DJ Du Cassell from Tucson--boots & glow sticks required
  • For the first time ever, Midnight Madness kicked-off with Live Bull Riding at Moonshine Willy's
  • Speaking of Moonshine Willy's - you don't have to be a V.I.P. to get in after 10:30 p.m.!


800 Port-A-Johns
4,692 rolls of toilet paper
5,275 lbs. of ice
8.5 tons of garbage
6,093 bottles of water consumed in day 1
1,097 employees
6,294 hamburgers
3,412 hot dogs

Day 2: Included Sara Jean Kelley, Steve Holy, Sawyer Brown, Kellie Pickler, Jake Owen, Big & Rich

Big & Rich: John Rich says, "I watched my Dad take guys in off the street, He didn't have anything to help anybody with, but he'd do whatever he could do to help people out." Big Kenny says, "My father's one of the most incredible people I've ever met."

Steve Holy: "When my friends wee listening to current music in the 80's and 90's, I was listening to the 50's and 60's, and more traditional stuff. "You know what, I'm so current I might've moved into the 70's by now."

Sara Jean Kelley
Jake Owen : "If you want to get better at your craft, you have to push yourself, take risks and try something different," he reflects. "In order to grow and not be complacent, you have to open your mind, expand your horizons and be grateful.

Kellie Pickler, "I realize the key to writing is just being true and writing what is real. It's why country music has such an impact. It's music people relate to because it's about telling true stories."

Sawyer Brown,  "We came out of the notion we were there to entertain people, to make sure everybody had a good time."

Day 2


  • Big & Rich, Jake Owen, Kellie Pickler, Sawyer Brown, Steve Holy and Sara Jean Kelley thrilled 18,323 festival attendees
  • 75 Degrees, Sunny Skies beautiful weather
  • Over 9 hours of top-notch entertainment from the main stage
  • GAC Tour Bus on site provided sneak previews of upcoming never-before-seen shows


372 Cowboy Hats Sold
1,563 Funnel Cakes Eaten
531 Slingshot Rides Taken
9,258 Bags of Ice Used
5,230 Estimated Games of Corn Hole Played

Day 3: Included The Roys, THE FARM, Neal McCoy, Joe Nichols, Thompson Square, Blake Shelton

Blake Shelton: "This has been an amazing year for me. "If you would have told me when I started out that I would have four major awards, top 10 songs, a sold-out show at the Ryman Auditorium and induction into the Grand Ole Opry - I would have thought your were pulling my leg."

Thompson Square: About performing "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not" at the Grand Ole Opry. "That was bucket-list stuff, says Shawna. "That's something you dream about all your life."

Joe Nichols: "It's simple, really - put out good music, make fun video, do great live shows, keep the visibility up and pay attention to the business end.

Neal McCoy: "We do work hard, and I'm going to work until I have entertained you," he says. "You may be the guy in coveralls sitting in the third row who's there because his wife wanted to come and who doesn't give a damn, but by the time my show is over we think you will be clapping, if nothing else, at least for the effort I put forth."
The Farm: "We didn't set out to be a group and be something specific. It was "Let's just make music." As long as it's cool and resonates with us, we've discovered it will resonate with other people."

The Roys: "Traditional county music and bluegrass is what we grew up on. That's all we listened to," says Elaine. "My grandma played the fiddle. She would play Acadian tunes and my aunts and uncles would sing and play multiple instruments as well.

Day 3


  • Country superstars and recent ACM winners Blake Shelton and Thompson Square took the stage tonight for 20,101 festival attendees along with Joe Nichols, Neal McCoy, THE FARM and The Roys
  • Full Rodeo with professional riders cranked it up for Midnight Madness PLUS HARRY LUGE and his band Dually Stoned played Moonshine Willy's into the wee hours of the night
  • Festival attendees played cornhole tournaments and enjoyed dueling pianos and world-famous hypnotist Sailesh at The Frat House
  • Beautiful weather broke through the clouds and continued on through the night


856,000 Kernels of Popcorn popped for Kettle Korn
3,579 Country Thunder t-shirts sold
1,345 lemonades sold
3,967 hand-dipped corn dogs eaten
5,874 pictures taken at the GAC (Great American Country) Television bus
4,357 people danced to DJ Du under the Electric Thunder tent
April walked 8.3 miles around the grounds today

Day 4: Included Casey James, JT Hodges, Brett Eldredge, Phil Vassar, The Band Perry, Alan Jackson

Alan Jackson: "I wouldn't want to compare myself to anybody," Jackson says. "But if I was going to say somebody I wanted to be like, of course, the two singer-songwriters in country music that stick out to me are Hank Williams Sr. and Merle Haggard. I don't know that there are two any better. I just don't put myself in that category."

The Band Perry: "Reid, Neil and I share genes and a musical pedigree," Kimberly explains. "We read the same classics and cook from the same recipes. With all of our likenesses though, I believe it's our distinctions that stir up the magic when we create. When the three of us sit down to write songs together, we pull from all of our individual perspectives and happenstances to create the most interesting song concoctions."
Phil Vassar: "Those who best understand Phil Vassar - good time, piano playing, boundless energy on stage, hardest-working-man-in-the-business - also understand the ongoing evolution of his original music.  
JT Hodges: "Country is the first thing I remember hearing," Hodges says. "My grandmother loved Conway Twitty and we used to listen to him all the damn time. If we were over at the house or in the care with her, literally all she ever listened to was Conway, and we would be like, "Turn it off!' - because it was eight hours a day!" "I've definitely come back to my roots, because more than anything, country music is character," Hodges says. "I was a very fortunate kid in that my mother and father raised me right, with traditional Southern values, Christian values, that yes ma'am, no ma'am philosophy." Brett Eldredge: "I opened for Blake Shelton at The Ryman and it was the coolest experience," Brett says. "I flew back from this house gig and all of a sudden I'm thrown into playing the Mother Church of Country Music, something I always dreamed of doing."

    Casey James: "I feel really blessed to be able to do what I do". "Thank you to all the fans." 

Day 4


  • Headliner Alan Jackson rocked the stage for 20,396 attendees as the final act of this year's Country Thunder
  • Also hitting the stage was GRAMMY award-winning sibling group, The Band Perry, Singer/Songwriter Extraordinaire Phil Vassar, Brett Eldredge, JT Hodges, and American Idol's Casey James
  • Record attendance for Country Thunder 2012 - 76,395 Attended over four days of festival
  • Be among the first to get your 2013 Country Thunder tickets by visiting
  • Country Thunder's charity of choice the Arizona 100 Club has raised over $15,000 for families of fallen first responders


3.5 Million Kernels of Popcorn popped for Kettle Korn
15,324 Country Thunder t-shirts sold
6,380 lemonades sold
16,868 hand-dipped corn dogs eaten
23.496 pictures taken at the GAC (Great American Country) Television bus
17,428 people danced to DJ Du under the Electric Thunder tent
1,488 Cowboy Hats Sold
6,252 Funnel Cakes Eaten
2,124 Slingshot Rides Taken
35,036 Bags of Ice Used
21,940 Estimated Games of Corn Hole Played
18,752 rolls of toilet paper
43 tons of garbage
26,378 bottles of water consumed in day 1
21,594 hamburgers
14,763 hot dogs
and April walked over 50 miles during four festival days of Country Thunder

See you back out at Country Thunder in Florence, Arizona next year on April 11-14, 2013
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