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Country Thunder expecting record crowd; preparing for severe weather

Posted at 5:32 PM, Jul 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-22 18:32:48-04

TWIN LAKES, Wis. — High heat and humidity, and the potential for storms, are ramping up just in time to affect a few big weekend events.

The biggest risk for severe weather in Southeast Wisconsin is Saturday night. That night, Jimmy Buffett headlines a nearly sold-out outdoor concert at Alpine Valley Music Theater. And tens of thousands of Alaniss Morisette fans will watch her perform at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater on the Summerfest grounds.

Then, there’s Country Thunder in Kenosha County. The four-day country music festival takes place in the Village of Twin Lakes. Many attendees camp on festival grounds without much protection from the elements.

This year, more than 40,000 people are expected to attend.

People begin to feel the heat at Country Thunder

“It’s going to be record breaking attendance numbers for us,” said Megan Benoit, Digital Media Director for Country Thunder Music Festival. “We are completely sold out for Saturday. We’ve got a huge crowd coming. Last night we saw the biggest crowd we’ve ever seen for a Thursday.”

“It’s already really hot, and it’s only going to get hotter,” said Kristen Paulson, who set up camp to experience her first Country Thunder weekend with friends. “It’s fun, but I know the humidity is going to be unbearable tomorrow. We filled an entire truck bed with ice to keep everything cold. We dumped some of it in our little kiddie pool, which helps to cool off.”

“The best things are shade and water,” said Nikkie Reigle, who traveled from Indiana.

Reigle is among the more experienced Country Thunder fans. This is her 10th time attending the country music festival. She comes equipped with battery-operated fans for the tents, and generators to keep the RV air-conditioned.

Partying in the sun all day with the chance of storms at night can be a dangerous combination.

“We pray for rain,” said Reigle. “It’s called Country Thunder for a reason. Bring it on. We love it when it gets muddy.”

“There’s nothing you can really do,” said Paulson. “If weather gets severe, you just hunker down and deal with it.”

Event organizers prepare for these conditions. There’s been heavy rain and flooding on site before. In 2018, a young woman was struck by lightning at the festival. She was badly injured, but recovered.

Benoit says there are paramedics, private security and local law enforcement on site monitoring the crowd and conditions. They are in constant communication.

“We’ve got plans in place if there is a storm and we need to evacuate,” said Benoit. “We typically first encourage people to go back to their campers and vehicles and hang tight there. We have a ton of people responsible for making sure we execute our safety protocol properly."

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