Country Thunder, is a touring country music festival that visits seven cities in North America every year. Kissimmee, Florida has been one of the stops since the current festival replaced “Runaway Country” in 2019 on the 190-acre entertainment complex known as Osceola Heritage Park, which also houses the Silver Spurs Rodeo Arena. No rodeo this past weekend, just three days of awesome country music.
It was Friday afternoon, and a few fans were lining up at the gate waiting for the 1:00pm gates to open. The weather was warm and partly cloudy, but it wasn’t hot, it was about 84 degrees. This festival previously took place in March, and if you know anything about the spring in Florida, it’s hot and sticky with a chance of rain every hour. Moving the festival dates to the fall was a great idea for everyone involved. The first day of a three-day festival usually starts out slow as many planning to attend the long weekend finish work on Friday before attending. This was a typical start of Country Thunder Florida.
Festivals are wonderful events that bring great music to the fans, who for just a few days make friendships and laugh and smile with complete strangers who have compatible musical interests to make a community for a priceless experience and weekend.
Crowd Images by Toni J Horan
Country Thunder kicked off with Orlando native, Charly Reynolds taking the stage at 2:00pm. This charismatic 23-year-old singer-songwriter is making a name for herself in Nashville. Her rendition of Brookes and Dunn’s “Neon Moon” in the final episode of the season in Fox’s medical drama, “Resident“which has helped her career. Her set was full of energy, and she will be a name to remember in country music.
Next on the big stage was the nominated ‘Breakthrough Artist of the Year’ at the 2023 Canadian Country Music Awards, Josh Ross. Ross has 179 million global streams on Spotify and his career is at full speed following his latest release “Trouble” which is certified Platinum and rocketed to #1 on Canadian Country Radio with over 70 million global streams since its release in July.
Shane Profitt definitely brought life into the growing crowd as they filed in from their work week to get into the action. Profitt went from playing the pre-Country Thunder Festival dinner at Blake Shelton‘s Ole Red restaurant in Orlando last year, to center stage this year! He exclaimed how humble and grateful he was to be on stage and his performance really came from the heart.
Jo Dee Messina, the Academy of Country Music Awards 1998 Top New Female Vocalist award winner, came on stage larger than life and enchanted the audience with her charisma and voice. Messina has had six number-one singles to date on the Billboard country music charts. She is a Bonafede country music star and a great performer. On her fifth song, the band went into the Boston‘s cover, “Foreplay/Long Time” and just as she started the lyrics of “Long Time” he voice would respond and the song was ended. Messina apologized and credited the vocal issue to her recent illness. We all have had those issues and most of us don’t sing for a career. She went on by changing her setlist to octaves she was comfortable with and finished her set like the professional she is. You couldn’t help but feel bad about her situation. If you can get and see Jo Dee Messina, get out and see this powerful performer.
The Academy of Country Music Awards’ 2022 “New Male Artist of the Year,” Parker McCollum is artist from Austin, Texas which also won The CMT Music Awards “Breakthrough Video of the Year” for his single “To Be Loved by You” was the next artist on stage. This artist was a bit Country with Americana (Blues, Soul, Rock) mixed in and was well received by the rocking crowd.
The headliner Cody Johnson came on stage at around 10:00pm to a screaming crowd at Heritage Park. Johnson has had seven albums released to date, with his eighth due out next month. His last four albums have charted in the country top 10 and the last two albums going gold. Live in concert he ends his show with “‘Til You Can’t,” his number one single from Human: The Double Album which was released in 2021.
Cody Johnson – Vocals/Guitar
Jody Bartula – Fiddle & Guitar.
Jake Mears – Lead Guitar
Joey Pruski – Bass Guitar
Miles Stone – Drums & Percussion
Harrison Yount – Steel Guitar. E
Day one of Country Thunder went off without incident. The weather was outstanding and everyone in attendance appeared to be having a great time despite the absence of major big names in the weekend lineup. Saturday’s schedule appears to be a bit more interesting than the bill from day one. Stay tuned for coverage of day two and day three!
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Photographer and Editor/Founder of AllMusicMagazine.com. My love of live music has taken me to incredible experiences with the top bands of all time in stadium shows to the smallest venues with equally inspiring musicians. Using the medium of photography and my publication, these memories will last forever.