Country Explosion has music, and bodies, cooking in Utah sun

Festival • Three days of Nashville's best homestead at Miller Motorsports Park.
This is an archived article that was published on in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Tooele • There is a reason why supergroup The Band Perry was the last act scheduled to take the stage Saturday night at the Country Explosion music festival.

Hands down, the sibling group — brothers Reid and Neil, and their sister Kimberly — was who most of some 17,000 people expected to attend the second day of the three-day music extravaganza wanted to see, despite blistering heat that approached 100 degrees.

"They do that on purpose," said Naomi Bell. "They save the best for last."

The Country Explosion, presented by Rebel Bail Bonds, with help from Stark Entertainment Group in Salt Lake City, bills itself as the biggest three-day country music festival ever in Utah. It was held in Vernal in 2011 and last year. In February, Stark signed a contract with Miller Motorsports Park, which will host the event for three years.

"There's nothing else like it in Utah," said Jason Stark, whose company was employed by Rebel Bail Bonds to hire the 21 acts, as well as market and promote the concert. Besides The Band Perry, some of the bigger names on the bill are LeAnn Rimes, Kellie Pickler, Clay Walker and Scott McCreery.

It was an eclectic mix of people who arrived as early as Thursday to claim camping spots at the park. By late afternoon, close to 5,000 people in 600 campers set up temporary homes at the park's south end. Stark estimated the line of campers that made their way slowly along Sheep Lane was 1½ miles long.

In the audience were men, young and old, who variously sported beards, mohawks, lip rings, cowboy boots, straw hats, blue jeans, pearl button shirts, belt buckles, straw hats, baseball caps and tattoos and long shorts.

The women were equally diverse. Many wore Daisy Duke short shorts and cowboy boots that rose to just below their knees. Other women wore straw hats, halter tops, plaid shirts, clam-digger pants and blouses.

Rebecca Simpson and Jake Houser, transplanted southerners who now live in Utah, paid about $100 and gained admission for all three days — six bands on Friday, seven on Saturday and eight on Sunday.

"I like how they put the more known bands late at night," said Simpson, 26, who grew up on country music in Kentucky. "It makes it worth beating the heat until the end of the night."

Houser, 32, was raised in South Carolina. He described the line-up of acts as "high-middle — there are bigger bands, but for the price you are paying, it's well worth the money."

The relentless heat did not dissuade Bell and her friend, Kayleigh Snedeger from claiming a spot on a low knoll less than 200 feet from the stage. Despite the lack of shade, Snedeger, 23 and Bell, 27, were certain they could endure the high temperatures if it meant they could see The Band Perry, who were scheduled to perform at 9:45 p.m.

"We're going to suck it up, and get water," Bell said.

"I love the heat," Snedeger said. "Bring it on."