Last year, Country Thunder Arizona brought in an average of 36,000 people a day, including fans, staff, working personnel, law enforcement, press and vendors.
That’s a 10% increase over the daily average at the 2019 festival. Now, a lot of those people are campers, most of whom are settled in by Friday at the latest.
But the others drive.
If you’ve been to Country Thunder Arizona, which returns to Canyon Moon Ranch near Florence, Arizona, from Thursday, April 7 to Sunday, April 10, then you already know you’ll be contending all of those people on a two-lane blacktop road between U.S. 60 and the ranch.
That will mean traffic problems.
That’s a given.
But with proper planning, you can minimize the hassle. As with many things in life, it all comes down to timing.
Morgan Wallen and more: Country Thunder 2022’s complete daily lineup and schedule
When should you arrive at Country Thunder?
“It’s like with any big event,” says Gerry Krochak, Country Thunder’s director of marketing and media relations.
“You’ve got to give yourself some time and you’ll be fine. This is a festival. It’s not a concert in the city. You’ve got one major road in. Not to compare us to Bonnaroo, but I know that line can be 12 hours.”
Gates open at 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 6, for campers and remain open each day until 10 p.m.
The main concert bowl opens at 1 p.m. daily.
Leaving Phoenix at 7 p.m. with plans of catching the headlining artist will not likely work out in your favor.
“There’s no event where you can try and jam in that many people at the exact same time and think it’s gonna be a good idea,” Krochak says.
Friday and Saturday will be particularly busy, with Blake Shelton headlining Friday and Morgan Wallen headlining Saturday.
“I can guarantee you,” Krochak says, “if you leave your house at 7, 7:30 to see Morgan Wallen? You’re not seeing him.”
Country Thunder parking rules and tips: What you need to know before you go
Whether you’re commuting with single-day tickets or driving back-and-forth each day with four-day passes, the earlier you can arrive the better.
“Our processing and front gate staff are extremely efficient,” Krochak says. “There’s 10 gates, and they push them through at a feverish rate. It’s just sheer volume when people are all coming at the exact same time.”
Planning and patience, Krochak says, will expedite this process.
Not a Country Thunder fan? Here’s what that traffic means for you
For those who need to use those roads to get to places not involving Country Thunder Arizona while the festival is raging, ADOT says you should expect heavy traffic and delays on highways heading toward Florence, including state routes 79 and 287.
Motorists who aren’t attending Country Thunder should plan for plenty of extra travel time or consider alternate routes to avoid the event traffic.
ADOT also asks drivers to use extra caution where SR 79 crosses the Gila River in Florence because of a work zone for a bridge replacement project.
Traffic tips for Country Thunder campers
Campers who leave and re-enter the site with previously processed tickets can bypass the line by staying to the immediate right. This should also assist in reducing traffic snarls as the weekend progresses.
Buy parking passes in advance online at countrythunder.com is “essential,” Krochak says.
“Taking a few minutes to complete this process will greatly speed up our ability to get you parked and into the festival.”
It also helps to ensure that you have downloaded or printed your festival tickets in advance. This is especially important for single-day ticket holders who plan on commuting. The Internet tends to be a bit spotty in the middle of a busy festival site with more than 30,000 people in attendance.
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