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Craven’s Country Thunder is set for a major comeback

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The Nation Thunder music competition in Craven is returning greater and higher than ever subsequent week after a two-year COVID hiatus.

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When basic supervisor Kim Blevins returned this week to the location of Nation Thunder Saskatchewan, it was like being reunited with an previous good friend.

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The grounds close to Craven have been largely abandoned because the final pre-pandemic competition in 2019. Though exhibits resumed south of the border final 12 months — Nation Thunder now contains seven festivals in Canada and the U.S. — Craven remains a special place for organizers.

“That is the one which began all of them,” stated Blevins, who made the journey from Nashville to assist oversee subsequent week’s festivities (Thursday to Sunday). “Not having the ability to be right here for a few years, personally, has been troublesome. However from the competition facet of issues, yeah, it was bizarre to stroll on that website the primary time. You get all these recollections. It was very emotional. We’ve been lucky sufficient to do some exhibits within the U.S. during the last 12 months. These are nice locations to go and the festivals are actually enjoyable and it was actually nice to be out with individuals once more, however that is nonetheless residence.”

The recollections return even additional than 2005, when Troy Vollhoffer first took over the competition. His historical past started with Craven’s debut in 1983 as Massive Valley Jamboree. COO Brian Andrews additionally goes again to the early ’80s whereas Blevins first set foot on the grounds in 1989.

“There’s tons of historical past on that website and we’re all part of that,” she famous. “We’re all from right here. It’s nonetheless the identical group of individuals which might be operating this factor (for the previous 17 years).”

Following a two-year hiatus, the location’s infrastructure required some consideration earlier than welcoming again spectators. That features fixing water and sewer strains, eradicating a few previous buildings and finishing repairs to others, together with an total contemporary coat of paint to brighten issues up.

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The facelift contains the ten,000-seat grandstands in addition to upgraded bogs and repairs to your complete “principal avenue.”

“It’s going to be what (individuals) bear in mind, however higher,” Blevins stated. “You possibly can think about after a few years of nothing the quantity of labor (wanted) on that infrastructure as a result of it’s previous. It has been round since ‘83 so that they’ve finished a large quantity of labor on the market to ensure individuals are going to have a very good expertise.”

Primarily, it’s a combination of previous and new.

“When individuals come onsite, I feel they’re going to get this little little bit of nostalgia as a result of it has been a pair years, however they’re additionally going to be more than happy, I feel, to see what we’ve finished,” she added. “The positioning continues to be improbable. Out of all of the locations we go it’s nonetheless, I feel, probably the most fairly place, (being) within the valley. We’re simply ensuring the previous woman seems just a little nicer in getting her prepared for her first occasion in a few years.”

Nation Thunder has returned to its previous format of opening the competition Thursday with stay leisure within the beer gardens as a substitute of the principle stage. The volleyball courts are nonetheless there, together with a lounge space for individuals to calm down through the day.

Day parking has been moved onto the Craven website, accompanied by new distributors and meals choices.

The SGI Protected Journey program is again with buses that depart from numerous places in Regina and Moose Jaw (the schedule is on countrythunder.com).

Organizers have additionally added the Beer Corridor, a large tent within the live performance space which permits individuals to take a seat at a picnic desk and see the stage.

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After all, Craven is greatest identified for attracting the most important names in nation music. This year is no different with a lineup headlined by Morgan Wallen, Blake Shelton and Lee Brice.

“That is one of the best lineup we now have out of all of our exhibits; we’re very pleased with it,” Blevins stated. “Morgan Wallen is the most important factor in nation music proper now. The man has offered out all around the U.S.. This present and our present (subsequent month) in Calgary are the one two locations in Canada which you can see Morgan Wallen this 12 months. For him to come back to Craven, Saskatchewan is a reasonably large deal. All of it goes again to our historical past with this occasion. We are likely to try to do issues just a bit bit higher in Saskatchewan as a result of that is our residence and admittedly we wish to showcase just a little bit and present our family and friends what we will do.”

The celebration begins with a kickoff party and free concert slated for today, 4 p.m., at Confederation Park in Regina. Weekend passes, single-day tickets and tenting passes can be accessible on the occasion and on the website.

Blevins stated gross sales are going “actually good” although some individuals are nonetheless hesitant as a result of COVID. There additionally additionally indicators of renewed enthusiasm for stay leisure, as evidenced by the truth that Nation Thunder’s upcoming present in Calgary is already offered out.

“Persons are supporting us, which is superb contemplating all the pieces that has gone on,” Blevins added. “There could also be just a little little bit of reluctance on this province. However everybody that I’ve talked to and what we’re seeing with ticket gross sales exhibits they’re excited and simply wish to put this weirdness behind us and begin dwelling life once more. I feel it helps that we’re an out of doors occasion as effectively. We’re telling all people, ‘in the event you really feel in any respect uncomfortable, you’re welcome to put on a masks.’ However we’re hoping to simply have an unbelievable occasion and present people who it’s time. It’s necessary for individuals’s psychological well being and the well being of the group. Persons are beginning to come out and we hope they select us for his or her weekend of leisure. In the event that they do, they’re going to have a improbable time, we will promise them that.”

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