By Lora Kaelber Special to Published Jul 18, 2017 at 6:06 PM

It’s Country Thunder time, friends! Taking place Thursday through Sunday in Twin Lakes, I gotta tell you, I’m so jazzed for the 2017 Wisconsin edition. It’s time for country folk to fly their flag!

The lineup is packed to the busting point with outstanding talent – established, new, classic, dance, pop, all of it country!

Taking the headliner spots are:

Billy Currington

Currington is one of the most understated and seemingly underrated current artists, even though he’s got 10 No. 1 hits under his belt. Expect: a night of incredible country with a bonfire atmosphere: chill, but definitely filled with energy.

Keith Urban

A multi-Grammy winner, Urban is celebrated all over the world for his killer country, with more No. 1 hits than I can count and the title of 2017 CMT Social Superstar because his fans are at the forefront of Urban’s country grand slams. Expect: a set filled with hits – and unknowns – from Urban’s new album, "Ripcord," plus, of course, a ton of his older established hits.

Thomas Rhett

2017 ACM Male Vocalist of the Year, Rhett brings influences of hip-hop, rap, R&B, oldies and classic country into a fusion of what’s bringing the millennials into the country music fold. Expect: a night of high-energy, fusion country. Prepare for the night to be a wild one.  

Jason Aldean

Jason Aldean, the 2016 and 2017 ACM Entertainer of the Year, closes the Thunder party with his never play it safe, always mixing it up, party anthem, give it everything you’ve got country style. Expect: Aldean’s own brand of fusion country filled with hit after hit, as well as some unknowns from his latest album, "They Don’t Know." He might be last in the lineup, but he’ll for sure amp up a tired, camped out crowd.

This weekend is going to blow minds! For real, can you beat that line up? If you think you can, consider adding Dan + Shay, Old Dominion, High Valley, Frankie Ballard, Ryan Hurd, Cam, Maddie & Tae, Tucker Beathard, William Michael Morgan and Big & Rich into the mix.

So what is it that makes Country Thunder a must-have ticket for the weekend?

Well, for starters, obviously, it’s the music. In addition to the main stage artists, there’s the Boathouse Cabana, where you can catch talented newer artists – and a couple of the main stage artists, like Ryan Hurd and Morgan Evans – in a more intimate setting. Plus, it’s in the shade, so if you need a break from the sun or the rain, you don’t have to miss hearing live music.  

There’s also Electric Thunder to keep the party going after the main stage closes for the night. Electro-infused country to keep you dancing into the wee hours – who doesn’t want that?

What’s new?

Glamping! That’s what’s new at Country Thunder this year.

Yes. I said "glamping." What is glamping, you ask? Glamping is the glamourous, elegant, sophisticated way of camping on a farm in the middle of Kenosha County.

For $2,600 – plus applicable taxes and fees – you can rent yourself a 12x14 safari style tent. This rental includes either two twin beds or a queen bed which includes linens and bedding (no idea if there’s maid service, but that’s probably doubtful). The air-conditioned tent includes a refrigerator, too. Also included in the glamping package are two passes to the festival and admission to Tito’s Lounge viewing area. Plus, you have access to a shower trailer and upgraded bathrooms.

Considering most campers won’t shower for four days, glamping might just be worth it.

Country Thunder lets fans’ country souls shine

It’s hard to explain to people who aren’t country fans. But Country Thunder is country. The farm it’s on, the rural country atmosphere, the mud, the starry sky, the boots, the cowboy hats, the trucker hats, the pick-up trucks, the American flags ... literally everywhere, the camaraderie, the shared love of the music – it’s all part of what it means to be a country music fan.

Country Thunder is a place where country music fans get to fly their flags. It’s a place where it’s not only totally OK, but it’s embraced to wear your Spiderman Underoos with your cowboy boots. Where tower beer bongs are everywhere. Where jean shorts aren’t jorts; they’re everyday clothing. Where camping under the stars with thousands of other people is not a hipster thing to do; it’s standard.

Man, it’s just us. Who we are.

So there’s that.

Food, drink and other sundries

Country Thunder will keep you happily supplied with food and drink. It’s been two years since I’ve been able to make the trek to Country Thunder. I’ve been craving a macaroni and cheese grilled cheese for almost two years. Really. I’ve tried to make them myself. Totally not the same.

Remember, though, 21 is the legal drinking age in Wisconsin. And even though the Country Thunder grounds do feel like another world, the legal drinking age at Country Thunder is also 21. Have a valid I.D. or risk getting carted off by the many undercover cops who roam the Thunder Bowl.

If you’ve forgotten something – like, oh, some aspirin for the raging self-induced hangover headache – you need not leave the festival grounds. There’s a general store inside the gates.

Forgot your cowboy boots? Lost your cowboy hat? Somehow lost your pants on Friday night? Also, no problem. Boot vendors, hat vendors, clothing vendors, all on-site and ready to fit you with the latest gear.

One note: When the Thunder Bowl fills up long about 6 or 6:30 p.m., you’re going to experience some serious data and cell coverage issues. So if you’re catching up to friends, make sure your meeting place is set in advance.

Otherwise, it’s gonna be one heck of a country party!

Individual day tickets and four-day passes, plus some limited reserved seating four-day passes, are still available. And don’t forget to stop and say "Hey y’all" to our friends at FM 106.1, who will be there all weekend on the east side of the Thunder Bowl, and to me. I’ll be the chick in boots with a camera.

Main stage lineup

Thursday, July 20

3:30 p.m. – Dorado
5 p.m. – Runaway June
6:30 p.m. – Chase Bryant
8 p.m. – Dallas Smith
10 p.m. – Billy Currington

Friday, July 21

1:30 p.m. – Big 95.5 Radio Winner
2:30 p.m. – Brandon Ray
3:30 p.m. – Restless Heart
5 p.m. – Michael Ray
6:30 p.m. – Frankie Ballard
8 p.m. – Dan + Shay
10 p.m. – Keith Urban

Saturday, July 22

1:30 p.m. – Morgan Evans
2:15 p.m. – Ryan Hurd
3:30 p.m. – William Michael Morgan
5 p.m. – Cam
6:30 p.m. – Tucker Beathard
8 p.m. – Old Dominion
10 p.m. – Thomas Rhett

Sunday, July 23

2:30 p.m. – High Valley
4 p.m. – Tracy Lawrence
5:30 p.m. – Maddie & Tae
7 p.m. – Big & Rich
9 p.m. – Jason Aldean

Lora Kaelber Special to
Moving to Milwaukee in 1998, Lora quickly adapted to and embraced big city living. A graduate of Carthage College and Marquette University Law School, Lora clerked for the Hon. Diane Sykes at the Wisconsin Supreme Court, worked as a litigator in private practice, and most recently was employed as a development officer for the MACC Fund.

In all of her experiences, time was focused on writing which has been a passion since junior high school. A series of food service industry jobs both before and after law school taught her that bringing out the human side in any story is key to great storytelling and good writing.

A die-hard east side girl, you'll usually find Lora down by the lake or on the Oakleaf. She's an avid photographer, and sometimes storm chaser.

Hobbies include biking, gardening, cross country skiing, swimming, blogging, and of course working on her fictionalized autobiography--fictionalized, because whose life is really interesting enough to fill 400 pages?

She's in IMDb. Look her up.