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Country Thunder Ready To Roll With Big Acts, Longer Run

TWIN LAKES, WISCONSIN (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Four years after filing for bankruptcy, Country Thunder is ready to make some noise again.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this years country music festival in Twin Lakes is planning to add a fifth day and has announced a lineup that is one of the most impressive in the event's 12-year history. Among the acts expected for this year's festival, which runs July 20-24, are Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Montgomery Gentry, LeAnn Rimes, Big and Rich, Hank Williams Jr. and Lynyrd Skynyrd with ZZ Top.

Country Thunder promoter Larry Barr says most of the festival's debt has been paid off, and he expects the bankruptcy to be cleared within a year. He attributes most of the festival's difficulties to the ruinous year of 1997, when a violent wind storm toppled the stage, cut short the festival and seriously injured some members of the stage crew.

"It was really hard to catch back up after that one in the time frame that we needed," Barr says. "It was almost impossible with that kind of a loss. It's like anything, when you get behind, you never seem to catch up. That's kind of what we got caught up in."

The decision to open this year's festival on a Wednesday rather than a Thursday was mostly because of the opportunity to book McGraw.

"He's probably one of the top three or four country entertainers out there," Barr says. "You just don't get an opportunity at an entertainer that large every year. We had a chance, and the only way we could do it was by bringing him in on that Wednesday. His routing didn't work out for us on any of the other days, so we opted for it."

Barr isn't ready to promise that the festival will remain at five days next year.

"We'd like to think it's going to continue on," he said. "Quite honestly, we've got to get through this year to see what it creates. Everything looks good on paper, let's put it that way. I want to see what happens in real life."

In addition to the aforementioned headliners, this year's Country Thunder will offer a strong mix of veteran and emerging talent. Other acts anticipated are Charlie Daniels, Terri Clark, Phil Vassar, Darryl Worley, Sara Evans, SheDaisy, Little Texas, Julie Roberts, The Warren Brothers, Katrina Elam, Billy Currington, Harry Luge, Josh Gracin, Sugarland and George Canyon.

The headlining acts on the festival's closing Sunday are '70s rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top.

Barr has featured rock bands before but says there's no plan to give the festival more of a rock feel.

"If you look back at what Country Thunder has done, I'd like to think we were one of the first ones out there who's tried mixing these entertainers," he said. "I've been doing it for quite a few years. Now you're seeing it on CMT. You're seeing acts like Toby Keith going out with rock acts like Ted Nugent." –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers