Country Thunder CEO Talks All-Female Friday & New Florida Festival

Jeff Kravitz/ACMA2018/FilmMagic for ACM
Miranda Lambert performs onstage during the 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 15, 2018 in Las Vegas.

Country superstar Miranda Lambert and the legendary Tanya Tucker will headline an all-female lineup on the first day of Country Thunder festival in Calgary, Alberta. Kicking off the three-day festival on Aug. 16 will also be Meghan Patrick and Calgary-born Lindsay Ell.

"I believe we need to empower women in regard to country music," executive producer/CEO of Country Thunder Music Festivals Troy Vollhoffer tells Billboard. "We definitely have a shortage of female artists at that magnitude who can go out and sell tickets because I don’t think that the push has been there yet. As a promoter or festival, we’re going to try to do that."

The all-female Friday lineup is a first for the collection of country music festivals that fall under Vollhoffer’s umbrella. Terri Clark and Lauren Alaina will also perform across the Aug. 16-18 festival with headliners Jake Owen and Jason Aldean on the main stage.

"They just need to get over the hump, these superstars. If we can push that and make that happen, it’s only to our benefit and to the fans who buy the tickets,” says Vollhoffer of women on country music festival lineups. “The most important thing are the lineups. We pride ourselves on being able to obtain these lineups. This year we have some smokin’ lineups."

This year’s Country Thunder festivals in Arizona, Saskatchewan and Wisconsin will all see performances from Chris Stapleton and Tim McGraw with Luke Combs, Trace Adkins, Jason Aldean and more playing select across the brand in 2019.

Vollhoffer attributes the brand’s stacked lineup to 20 years of building strong relationships throughout the music community through his company Premier Global Production. The company has also serviced some of the largest events in North America including Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Electric Forest, Bonnaroo, Voodoo Music and Arts Festival, Music Midtown, Tortuga Music Festival and Hangout Music Festival, as well as worked with Metallica, Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Cage The Elephant and more.

In 2005, Vollhoffer’s Premier Global Production company took over the historic Craven Country Jamboree, the oldest continual music festival in North America started in 1983. Following the resuscitation of Craven in Saskatchewan, Vollhoffer took over the Country Thunder brand in America, adding festivals in Arizona and Wisconsin to his portfolio and rebranding Craven under the same name.

“We have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in the festival business leading up to [the Craven acquisition], so when we got into it we were able to build a great brand. Then we took over Country Thunder in a similar situation,” says Vollhoffer. “We had a formula and we ran with those festivals and turned them into financial profitability over the course of a year.”

Country Thunder now puts on five festivals throughout the year in Arizona, Wisconsin, Alberta, Saskatchewan and the first ever Florida festival happening this weekend from March 22-24 at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee.

Country Thunder Florida will feature headliners Toby Keith, Luke Combs and Luke Bryan in a city setting with available camping options. Vollhoffer explains that the festival will draw from local residents in the nearby Tampa and Orlando areas.

“Each festival has a unique environment,” says Vollhoffer. “For instance, the Arizona venues is an old movie ranch where they used to shoot westerns…surrounded by rolling hills and mountains. It feels like you’re in the middle of a western. It’s an oasis because we went and planted grass over the whole venue.”

The Wisconsin festival takes place in a grass bowl that works as a natural amphitheater and has been named Festival of the Year by industry conference International Entertainment Buyers Associations. In addition, the Country Thunder brand has been recognized with an ACM award in 2015 and Vollhoffer was recognized at the 2018 Canadian Country Music Awards with the Slaight Music Humanitarian Award for raising over $600,000 to support the 29 families affected by the devastating Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

The Country Thunder portfolio of festivals kick off the 2019 season this weekend in Florida (March 22-24) followed by Arizona (April 11-14), Saskatchewan (July 11-14), Wisconsin (July 18-21) and Alberta (Aug. 16-18). To learn more about the slate of events, head here.  

Festivals 2019