The Essential Country Thunder Survival Guide
Country festivals are an experience. Country Thunder - Wisconsin is the go-to festival for anyone in the Midwest. There are a couple of things I wish I had been told before my first weekend spent camping in Twin Lakes, WI. Here are the essentials for any newbies out there:
1. Tent (duh)
Once your 4-Day ticket and campsite have been purchased, you need somewhere to sleep. Pack a tent, pillow and blanket. It may reach 90 something during the day, but it never fails to get chilly at night.
2. A Hoodie
This is a "better safe than sorry" item. It doesn't have to be a heavy hoodie, but bring something to cover your arms. I am a larger man, so I stay warmer than most naturally. A beer jacket also helps, but as I said in #1, sometimes it gets chilly at night and you'll regret only packing your sleeveless flannels and cut off shorts.
I am a ginger. Enough said.
4. A Cooler (and maybe a chain)
You need to keep your beer cold. Sometimes, they come around with ice, but if not, there is a Wal-Mart ten minutes away that you can drive to every morning and stock up on ice for the next day or two, depending on how hot it is. You may want to bring a chain for you cooler because...
5. Watch Out for Drunk Teenagers
Look, I understand that underage drinking is not allowed at Country Thunder, but it's going to happen. No one has a bigger ego than a drunk 18 year old. They assume they are unstoppable because they are camping away from mom and dad. They will walk through your campsite, and they will assume it's an everything must go sale. Nothing super expensive has ever been taken from me personally, but keep anything valuable locked in your car when you are not there.
6. Non-Perishable Food
Festival food is delicious, but if you don't want to have to walk to the festival to eat each meal, bring some food to snack on at your campsite. Make sure it doesn't have to be refrigerated because ice melts in coolers and you don't want to eat waterlogged food.
Beer is good. Beer is great. I love drinking it excessively. BUT it is the summer in the midwest. You are camping in an open field without shade. Hydrate. Don't be an idiot. You don't have to prove to your friends how tough you are and how many beers you can drink. NO ONE looks cool being carted away on a stretcher because they've lost motor control.
8. Pace Yourself
Speaking of showing off. Don't. Pace yourself. Country Thunder is a four day festival (five if you camp out Wednesday night). You don't need to go hard in the paint Wednesday and hate life for two days after. You don't need to be the friend who is blacked out by noon. No one likes that person. Country Thunder is about the music as much as it is about the atmosphere. Actually make it to the concert.
As an example, it's story time: Country Thunder 2012. Friday. My friend and I decide to go see The Dark Knight Rises at the earliest available showing at the closest theater, because we're nerds like that. We get back around 1 or 2 and our friends are already drinking and getting ready for the concerts. A cute girl from the campsite next to us invites me to take shots with her because "I need to catch up." I am 21, single, and, let's say, interested in her. Of course I take a few. As I said before, I am a big man. I knew a couple shots wouldn't do much, so I decided to take another step. I opened and proceeded to finish a fifth of Kraken Black Spiced Rum by myself. For those of you who don't know what that is, it is a 94 proof rum. That means it is 47% ABV. In other words, it's strong. In 2012, I was a much larger man than I am now. The amount my body could hold would kill a lesser man. This is not me bragging, by the way. It was not healthy.
Anyways, that night, I don't remember the concerts. I don't remember talking to the neighbors about the Bears and Packers rivalry after. I don't remember throwing up in my friend's tent. I'll just say that I never got to know that neighbor girl any better. I physically could not think about alcohol the rest of the weekend. I finally choked down a beer Sunday evening. Don't be 2012 me.
9. Bring a Canopy (or two)
Shade will be your friend. Even if you are not a ginger like myself and can actually get tan, the sun WILL take its toll on you. Four days in the sun will wear you down. Country Thunder is about the fun and the experience, but be smart and stay healthy.
10. Have Fun and Make Friends
I'll end this article with a happier story than before. In 2015, I planned on going to Country Thunder with my friend and his friend. I bought a campsite and my ticket and was ready to go. My friend is a football coach, so he and his friend couldn't come up until Friday afternoon once practice was over. However, there was an artist that I wanted to see Thursday, so I went up alone. I decided that I would spend a night by myself and enjoy the music.
While I was setting up our tent, a guy from the neighboring site told me to to come over for a beer once my tent was set up. Not actually wanting to spend the night alone, I took him up on his offer. He introduced me to his 15+ friends on their 4 campsites. To this day, I keep in touch with them and we try to meet up when we can. We then invited more and more surrounding sites to join us. In 2016, we had ten campsites to ourselves.
Even if you hate country music, I always recommend Country Thunder because of the friendliness of the (majority of the) attendees. I cannot tell you how many campsites I have just been walking passed that have invited me in for a beer. The camaraderie of country fans is the greatest of any genre. Do not be afraid to branch out while you're there. You'll make some amazing memories that weekend.
If you have any other festival survival tips, let us know in the comments!