Featured Image By David Lehr
Day two of Country Thunder is the traditional day that the festival gets a bit on the crazy side. The estimated attendance was a projected 30,000 for this fine Saturday, but the attendance record was actually shattered with over 41,000 in the crowd. We were also getting teased all day about a surprise happening later in the day. The energy was off the charts coming off the crowd and the artists were trying to match it on stage. On this day, every artist came down the the ramp getting up close and personal with the audience, taking selfies with their phones, and signing hats and t-shits as they traveled up and down. The fans love their country artists, and the artists did the best they could to reciprocate.
Nolan Sotillo got the show rolling at a bit after 2:00pm. The start was not as smooth as the day before, but it was a brief delay that could be caught up as the day progressed. From singer, songwriter, to actor, this West Palm Beach resident is currently out supporting his latest record, “At The End Of The Day”, released October 22, 2021. The set was very upbeat and he was the first of the day with multiple trips out the runway to interact with the audience.
Maggie Rose was the next artist on the bill at 3:30pm. Rose started her career as a country artist in 2009. Her recent album, Have a Seat, was released in 2021 and marked her transformation from a country artist to a Soul/R&B artist. Her vibe was completely different than any that had gone before her. It definitely had a strong bluesy vibe which I found refreshing and a great change of pace. Maggie also came down the runway and signed autographs. Crowd interaction was the flavor of the day and the emotions of the crowd were increasing with each performance.
As the day progressed, the size and the emotions of the crowd let you know by being in their presence, this day was going to be a very special day.
James Barker Band was scheduled to perform at 5:00pm and went on stage almost right on time as the crews hustled to get the stage prepared with only a few minutes of delay. Formed in Woodville, Ontario, in 2015, this band consisting of James Barker, Connor Stephen, Bobby Martin, and Taylor Abram have already had four number one country singles on the Canadian charts with “New Old Trucks”, “Keep It Simple”, “Over All Over Again”, and “Chills”. They were really great and I even had a chance to get a band photo backstage before they went on.
Next up on stage was the country music icon, Tracy Lawrence. with 24 albums and a 32 year career, Tracy was no stranger to this near capacity crowd as he hit the stage as the sun was setting in the west at 6:30pm. He was also signing hats and serenading fans from the runway.
By no means is Tracy’s sun setting anytime soon as he entertained and delighted the crowd during his hour long set which included the Charlie Daniels hit “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”which brought the audience to their feet dancing along. This just added to the excitement the fans were already feeling and the party was in full bore! But wait, at the end of Tracy Lawrence’s set, a special guest was set to arrive and the festival was a buzz with wondering who, or what was in store.
Our surprise of the day was the campaign stop of Governor Ron DeSantis. You couldn’t ask for a better audience than over 41,000 country music fans to endorse this governor that kept the state of Florida free from the tyranny some states experienced during the recent pandemic. Florida is and always has been open for business! He made his entrance throwing caps to the crowd. Then he took the microphone in the center of the runway and made his case for re-election. Governor DeSantis, great to see you and thanks for taking the time on a Saturday night to stop by. Love this guy! Don’t forget to vote November 8th!
It was 8:00pm and night had fallen in Kissimmee, Florida in Heritage Park. The stage lighting had taken over and there were just two monster acts to follow. Chase Rice broke onto the celebrity scene as a contestant on Survivor: Nicaragua in 2010. He also is a former pit crew member of Hendrick Motorsports of NASCAR. Aside from also playing linebacker for The North Carolina Tar Heels, he has recorded five albums; the third opening atop the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. Chase Rice was larger than life and his show was full of energy and the audience just loved it. Chase even brought his band out on the Runway to jam in the middle of the crowd. Oh this party was getting out of control! Well, it was over for this photo journalist as we were not allowed to photograph the headliner Morgan Wallen. But, I did get a few pictures from his tour photographer to share with you and complete this concert review. Please enjoy!
This has been my fourth year of covering this festival. Saturday October 24, 2022 with 41,000+ in the crowd, a record crowd for this event I may add, the experience was one that I won’t forget for a long time. The energy that was in the air was just electric. I was told the next day that it took until 4:00am to clear the parking lots after the party tent Electric Thunder shut down. What could Sunday’s roster do to top this day? I guess you will have to stay tuned to tomorrow’s article!
Day One Country Thunder Coverage HERE
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