Country Thunder to return to Calgary in 2017 with headliner Blake Shelton

It may not have gone as smoothly as expected, but with lessons learned and encouraged by a sell-out of the inaugural Calgary edition, Country Thunder will return in 2017.

Organizers confirmed that the event be back at Prairie Winds Park Aug. 18-20 next year, with Blake Shelton announced as a headliner Sunday night prior to this year’s closer Luke Bryan taking the stage 

“Absolutely,” said Kim Blevins, director of marketing for Country Thunder, early into Sunday when asked about a repeat appearance of the festival.

In fact, tickets were set to go on sale that afternoon from the website before this year’s show had even come to a close.

Again, it was a rocky start to the weekend, with Friday’s show, featuring headliners Jess Moskaluke, Chris Young and Big & Rich, marred by long lineups for everything from age-verification bracelets to purchasing the tickets for all of the food and beverage vendors onsite to actually acquiring those refreshments.

Things had improved greatly on Saturday, with added beer vendors spread throughout the site and wandering security with those bracelets to alleviate some of those lines, allowing people to relax and enjoy performers such as locals Lindsay Ell and Bobby Wills, and other Mainstage acts Chris Janson and Tim McGraw.

On Sunday, things seemed to be running even smoother, with the 17,500 country music fans at the northeast park having an almost uniformly positive experience — helped in part by the one thing organizers couldn’t control, the amazing, hot and sunny weather.

Everything else, well, Blevins, who has been working with Country Thunder and its other events, including the Craven Country Jamboree in Saskatchewan, for the past 12 years, chalks that up to a learning experience.

“Any time you do something new you think you know what you’re doing and sometimes you just have to learn on the go,” she said.

“And that’s what we had to do this weekend. But I’ve gotta say the people who have come to the show have been incredibly patient and incredibly welcoming to us, and we’ve just tried to improve day after day, and I think we’ve done that.

“And it’s turned out to be a fantastic weekend.”

mibell@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/mrbell_23