If you don’t love your red solo cup or think tractors are sexy, you’re not alone. Maybe, you feel that the “country” has been ripped out of country music. That the magical sounds of the fiddle and banjo have been replaced with pop beats and the casual guest appearance of guitars, meaning that every song sounds the same. Or, maybe, you’re a suburbanite, and the word “country” conjures images of overalls, line dancing, and bare feet. If you aren’t already in love with country music, we’re okay with that — those of us who are will hopefully convince you to change your mind. Because let’s face it, the genre is an emotional punch. It’s a mixed bag of lyin’, cheatin’ exes, of epic loves and lusts, of unbearable losses. It’s for the perfectly imperfect, people willing to flirt with situational shades of grey. There are more than 30 country music festivals in the US. So, cowgirl, grab your spurred boots – we’ve rustled up five of the best country music festivals.
Flambeau Fest 2017 – Gonzales, Louisana
After floodwaters breached a levee along the Amite River, submerging nearly a third of all the homes in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, and the Bayou Country Superfest was booted from Tiger Stadium, Mark Adam Miller, the CEO of Pi Entertainment, felt that “the Child of the Mississippi” was healthy and deserved a win. So, he launched Flambeau Fest, a 2-day country and rock ‘n’ roll event that’s like “capturing lightning in a bottle.” “The flambeau is…[the] torch families carried up and down the bayou,” Miller said. “We wanted to be that torchbearer to bring new music experiences here.” 2017 headliners include Hank Williams, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Parish County Line, and Crystal Day, who’ll debut her new single “Karma Like Flowers”, a girl-power anthem about bouncing back after a breakup. Starting at noon, three stages will simultaneously be set on fire: the main stage, the torch stage, and the songwriter in the round stage. At the food promenade, you’ll also be able to grab traditional Louisiana fare: jambalaya, crawfish pasta, fried catfish, and gator-on-a-stick.
Country Summer – Santa Rosa, California
A collaboration between Impact Entertainment, Sports & Event Marketing, and Sonoma Media Group, the local owner of Froggy 92.9 , Country Summer is Northern California’s largest country music festival and Sonoma County’s biggest bash, attracting more than 30,000 fans from 35 states and four foreign countries. Since launching in 2014, every year, 14 top country artists, including Thomas Rhett, Darius Rucker, Justin Moore, and Randy Houser, crank up the party on the Chevy Silverado Stage. Between the main acts, local bands like American Honey, The Scotty Mac Band, and Ryan Scripps, keep the party pumping. Darlin’, we also reckon that you’ll love the mechanical bulls, the pit (standing room only tickets that are up close to the stage), and an ice-cold Budweiser — especially since California’s summers are hotter than a billy goat with a blowtorch.
Country Thunder Arizona – Florence, Arizona
In 1993, Country Thunder Arizona tumbled into southwest Wisconsin and central Arizona. Twenty-four years later: 10,000 people descend in their RVs and campers, turning a dusty field into a makeshift city. It’s packed with pop-up clothing stores, tattoo parlors, and restaurants that serve Southern specialties (think corn dogs and fried Oreos). Country Thunder Arizona even has its own Rewards Program, where you can win free stuff like tickets, upgraded experiences, merch gift cards, and partner freebies. From beer pong to the Beer Olympics to a beer bong, a female mannequin that has a funnel for a head, Country Thunder Arizona has a drink-’til-you-drop culture — it even offers a $60 IV that’ll help you sober up. And, while the festival is known for its booze and its headliners (Blake Shelton, Frankie Ballard, Chris Young, and The Oak Ridge Boys), the four-day extravaganza boasts a fully-functioning pirate ship and a “Cowboy Church” that mixes traditional scriptures and horseback demonstrations.
CMA Music Festival – Nashville, Tennessee
There’s little doubt that Nashville is the heart of country music. It’s hosted the CMA Music Festival, formerly Fan Fair, for almost half a century. A four-day festival, it features 11 stages, seven of which are free of charge to the public, and 167 hours of music from more than 350 artists. From Nissan Stadium, where the best labels in the country show off their twang and trills, to the Hard Rock Cafe, where up-and-coming musicians vie for recording contracts, the CMA Music Festival has a little something for everyone, whether or not country is in your musical wheelhouse. Aside from autographs, meet and greets, and endless photo opportunities, country music’s brightest lights also take a swing at cancer during the City of Hope’s Celebrity Baseball Game.
Moondance Jammin Country – Walker, Minnesota
You’ve probably heard this part of the United States Postal Service’s unofficial creed: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…” It’s a motto that the performers at the Moondance Jammin Country Music Festival take to heart — showstoppers like Maiden Dixie to Parmalee and regional bands are willing to belt it out in the aftermath of tropical storms. However, the musicians aren’t the only ones with country grit: in bad weather, festivalgoers have been known to huddle up, where they’re so close to the stage they can “see Jake Owen’s…toes while he’s singing ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night.’ ” With rolling hills and picturesque wooded sites, “glamping” is a major part of the twenty-six-year-old festival. Well-lit with 24-hour security, owner Kathy Bieloh supplies festivalgoers with firewood, showers, fresh water, and even ice. Just a heads-up, though: the majority of on-site vendors only accept “Moondance Bucks”.