And for local cowboys and cowgirls, it’s been worth the wait. The festival is the largest country music event in Arizona and features tens of thousands of people in attendance and performances by more than a dozen recording artists and hitmakers from the genre. This year’s edition happens from Thursday, October 14, to Sunday, October 17, and is scheduled to include sets by Eric Church, Hardy, Luke Combs, Ashley McBride, Chris Janson, Dustin Lynch, and Parmalee.
All the trappings of a typical Country Thunder will also take place at this year’s festival, from its “Electric Thunder” tent to its party-friendly campgrounds.
If you'd like to know what else is in store, check the following comprehensive guide to Country Thunder Arizona 2021, which features everything you need to know about tickets, parking, schedule, and the festival’s COVID-19 policies.
When and Where Is the Festival?Country Thunder Arizona 2021 happens from Thursday, October 14, to Sunday, October 17, on the grounds of Canyon Moon Ranch, 20585 East Water Way in Florence.
What Are the Hours?Will call and the front gate will be open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily from Wednesday, October 13, to Sunday, October 17. Country Thunder’s campgrounds will open at 9 a.m. on Wednesday and people will be able to arrive up until 10 p.m. (It's possible to leave beyond these hours, but reentry to the festival or campgrounds won’t be allowed.)
The festival’s performance area (or “bowl”) is scheduled to open at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday and at noon on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It’s set to close at 2 a.m. nightly. Performance times for each artist or band can be found below.
How Much Are Tickets?Reserved seating and single-day general admission tickets are officially sold out, as are platinum and VIP packages. You can still purchase four-day general admission to the festival for $245 per person (before fees), but you’ll want to do it soon since only a few thousand are left, according to promoters.
Tickets and camping passes are also available through Craigslist and various resellers like SeatGeek and StubHub. Keep in mind, though, prices will be a bit steeper and the festival doesn’t endorse the practice. (Plus, your experience may vary when it comes to Craigslist transactions.)
Are There Age Limits?The festival itself is open to all ages and children 10 and under can get into the general admission area with a paid adult. The campgrounds are limited to those 18 and over, though, and you’ll have to be at least 21 to legally purchase and consume alcohol.
What’s the Weather Going to Be Like?Pretty perfect for an outdoor music festival. The forecast calls for clear skies and plenty of sun the first three days with some clouds expected on Sunday. Temperatures will be in the high 70s and into the 80s during the daytime and around the 50s and 60s after dark. Dress accordingly and bring sun protection.
How Do I Get to the Festival?Anyone coming from the Valley or Tucson is in for a bit of a drive. If you’re coming from metro Phoenix, take the eastbound U.S. Highway 60 (better known as the Superstition Freeway) for approximately 40 miles. Once the freeway ends, continue on for another 13 miles until you reach Florence Junction, then drive south on State Highway 79 for 17 miles. Hang a left at Price Station Road/Water Way and follow the signs to the festival.
Will There Be Shuttle Service to Country Thunder?Yes. A private company, Stagecoach Express Shuttle, will offer round-trip service to the festival from two east Valley locations all four days. Pick-up and drop-off locations will be at the Walmart at 240 West Baseline Road in Mesa and the Goodwill at 185 West Apache Trail in Apache Junction. Departure times are at 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. Fares for the first person are $45 from the Walmart, $39 from the Goodwill, and $23 for each additional person from either location. More information is available here.
What’s the Parking Situation Like?It depends on where you want to park and for how long. Parking at a campsite will require a vehicle pass, one of which is included with a paid camping site. One additional pass can be purchased for $65, which will be good for the entire weekend. (A "camper drop-off" pass will also run you $20 for those without tickets who are ferrying people to and from the campgrounds.)
For attendees who aren’t camping, single-vehicle parking passes are $15 per day or $30 for the whole festival. You can also park in the “Weekend Reserve” lot, which is next to the festival entrance, for $80. All three options require you to be out of the parking lot by 2:30 a.m. each night or risk getting ticketed or towed.
If you’d like to leave your vehicle at the festival, though, weekend overnight parking passes are available for $80 and are valid from 9 a.m. on Wednesday to 3 p.m. on Monday, October 18.
An ADA lot will also be available, but you'll need to have an appropriate ADA permit and purchase a day or weekend parking pass.
What Will Getting Inside the Festival Involve?A government-issued photo ID is required to pick up tickets from will call. There will be entrances for general admission patrons on both the east and west ends of the festival. A separate entrance for ADA and reserved/VIP seating will be on the northwest side. Bag checks will take place at each entrance and security will only allow clear bags up to 14 inches by 17 inches by 6 inches, one-gallon disposable freezer bags, and small clutches no larger than 4.5 inches by 6.5 inches. See below for more information about what is and isn’t allowed at Country Thunder.
What Are Country Thunder’s COVID-19 Policies?Country Thunder spokesperson Gerry Krochak told the Arizona Republic that proof of COVID-19 vaccinations or a negative test result are not required to attend the festival. They’re encouraging patrons to get jabbed, though, and anyone who brings their vaccine card to the information booth has a chance of winning an autographed guitar or seating on the main stage.
Krochak also said the festival will be following all current COVID-19 protocols from the state of Arizona and Pinal County. Information regarding social distancing will be displayed and hand sanitizer dispensers will be available on the festival grounds.
What’s Allowed at Country Thunder?Sun protection like hats, sunblock, and sunglasses are allowed (and highly recommended) at the festival. Beyond that, you can bring in cellphones (make sure they’re fully charged), beach towels, fanny packs, non-professional or disposable cameras, and lighters. Blankets, soft lawn chairs, and strollers are also permitted, but will be searched upon entry. Prescription medication is okay (as long as the name on the bottle matches your government-issued photo ID), as are over-the-counter meds (provided they’re new and factory sealed).
What Isn’t Allowed?
You’ll have to leave your six-shooters or Bowie knives at home, cowboy, as weapons like firearms or anything with a blade is forbidden at Country Thunder. Laser pointers, fireworks, noisemakers, illegal substances, selfie sticks, drones, backpacks or large bags, glass containers, monopods or tripods, umbrellas, laptops, radios, outside food and drink, chairs with canopies, and non-service animals are also strictly verboten.
Will Food and Drinks Be Available?Yes. A food court will be located on the south end of the festival grounds and vendors. You can purchase food and drink tickets or use your credit/debit card.
Will There Be Alcohol?Of course. A half-dozen bars will be located around Country Thunder and a beer hall will be set up on the north end. Anyone 21 and over will need a wristband to purchase adult beverages, which can be obtained at a pair of ID check stations located next to the festival’s east and west entrances.
What About Water?Each attendee will be allowed to bring in one factory-sealed bottle of water. Vendors will also have water available for purchase.
What’s the Camping Going to Be Like?One of the hallmarks of Country Thunder is the massive campground where festival patrons kick back and party it up when they aren't watching performances. As we mentioned, every campsite is officially sold out but there are spaces available for purchase on Craigslist.
If you manage to get a spot, keep in mind that you'll also need a ticket to the festival itself. There are also plenty of rules in regards to conduct and noise while camping, all of which can be found here.
Can Anyone Visit or Hang Out At Campsites?
Yes, though you’re required to purchase a four-day pass and be over 18 years old.
What’s the Music Schedule Like?Performances will start in the afternoon each day with headlining sets happening at 10 p.m. Here’s the specific main stage schedule for all four days of the festival.
Thursday, October 14
3:30 p.m. – Nolan Sotillo
5 p.m. – Meghan Patrick
6:30 p.m. – Filmore
8 p.m. – Mitchell Tenpenny
10 p.m. – Dustin Lynch
Friday, October 15
2 p.m. – Drew Gregory
3:30 p.m. – Austin Jenckes
5 p.m. – Seaforth
6:30 p.m. – Randy Rogers Band
8 p.m. – Chris Janson
10 p.m. – Old Dominion
2 p.m. – Drew Parker
3:30 p.m. – Dallas Smith
5 p.m. – Parmalee
6:30 p.m. – Parker McCollum
8 p.m. – Ashley McBride
10 p.m. – Luke Combs
Sunday, October 17
2:30 p.m. – Kameron Marlowe
4 p.m. – Chicks With Hits
5:30 p.m. – Ernest
7 p.m. – Hardy
9 p.m. – Eric Church
What Else Is Happening at Country Thunder?The “Electric Thunder” tent will set up in the middle of the festival grounds. In years past, it’s featured its own lineup of local musicians, DJs, and entertainment (as well as activities like line-dancing lessons) throughout each day and long into the night.
On the other end of the spectrum, a “Cowboy Church” service is scheduled to happen from 11 a.m. to noon on Sunday.