Florence starts celebrating its big annual country music festival a few days early with the “Road to Country Thunder,” a free Saturday night concert on North Main Street.

Drawing as many as 3,500 people, it’s one of the historic downtown’s top-drawing events each year.

“It’s just a great partnership between the town and the Country Thunder group,” Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Roger Biede said. “This is a sign of goodwill from them. They go all out, providing the bands, and spend a lot of money here in Florence putting this together.”

This year’s event is set for 5 to 10 p.m. on April 2.

Country Thunder provides the stage, while the radio station KMLE provides the entertainers, and the town provides fencing, tables, chairs and light towers. Some fans bring lawn chairs, but there are also plenty of hay bales to sit on and there’s room to dance in front of the stage.

There’s a children’s area, food vendors and booths. Biede said food trucks are already scrambling to be a part of this year’s event, and crafts people are asking about it as well. The town suspends its usual special event vendor permit rules for “RTCT” to allow the chamber to coordinate vendors and collect fees. Biede said it’s a chance for the chamber to earn a little extra money to advertise other events.

Chamber members don’t see as much extra business in their stores as they do from other major annual events, but RTCT is still good for the town, Biede said.

“Absolutely, any time people are brought downtown it shows off our town, it shows the businesses (that) are here. It’s a good thing to bring people downtown. It’s the same idea with Third Fridays. They may not be spending money that night, but they know we’re here, and if we bring a new face to Florence, that’s a good thing.” PW

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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