RANDALL — It wouldn’t be Country Thunder without a performance from Mother Nature.
A possibility of thunderstorms was added to a forecast of near-record heat as the popular four-day country music festival opens today and runs through the weekend.
As campers began arriving to the festival grounds on Wednesday, Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department was well-prepared to handle thousands of country music fans with its on-site Mobile Command Unit.
The sheriff’s department staffs nearly 100 personnel, 24 hours a day, to keep the festival a fun and safe place for everyone.
The approximately $200,000 operational cost is covered, in full, by Country Thunder.
“It’s kind of like a big family that comes together for one week every year to make this a huge success,” Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said. “Most of the people who come here are extremely respectful.”
The biggest concern heading into this year’s festival wasn’t underage drinking or disorderly patrons, but rather extreme heat. The high temperature on Friday is expected to reach nearly 100 degrees.
The festival has a cooling tent and a medical station — operating as a makeshift emergency room — on-site for those in need.
Organizers and emergency crews are encouraging people to drink plenty of fluids, preferably water instead of alcohol.
“We’re going to have a lot of heat issues here in the next few days,” Beth said. “Drink lots of water.”
Regardless of the weather or precautionary advice, plenty of alcohol will be consumed on the grounds and inevitably by those underage.
The sheriff’s department issued more than 200 citations and arrests in 2018 for underage drinking (170), disorderly conduct (10), obstruction (10), fraud (9), possession of THC (6), possession of drug paraphernalia (6), trespassing (4), criminal damage to property (2), warrants (2) and possession with intent to deliver (1).
Last year, a Woodstock, Ill., woman was seriously injured after being struck by lightning at the Country Thunder campground.
“In an area like this, it’s very difficult to protect every single one like you’d like to,” Beth said. “You basically have open hay fields. We do our best.”
Beth encouraged people to arrive early and enjoy what he referred to as the “pinnacle” of country music festivals.
County Thunder typically draws some of the most popular country acts around. This year’s main stage lineup includes Jake Owen, Tim McGraw, Luke Combs and Chris Stapleton.
It’s also synonymous with heat, rain and often mud.
“I asked Country Thunder to change its name to Country Sunshine,” Beth said. “They still have not done it.”