Thunder on the Iron Range: A few quick words with Mike Ridenour

So doing the Country Fest write-up I happened to catch up with Mike Ridenour the main man behind Thunder on the Iron Range. Initially, I just wanted to get a quick quote for the article, but his answers were so good I wanted to just include the quick interview as a separate piece.

Tickets for the festival are only $10 in advance here.

So what inspired you to put on a country music festival?

There is a huge country music fan base here in Marquette county that I believe gets overlooked by most of the larger live music events. I also thought for the first Music Fest type event in Negaunee, country music would be widely accepted by the masses, especially with the acts we’ve chosen. A country music, southern rock, country pop, outlaw country or even classic rock fan will dig what they’re hearing.

Yeah, I really agree with a lot of that. I know over the years I’ve been trying to do my part in bringing in country/outlaw/Americana music to the area that the major festivals wouldn’t even consider. Now, I kind of know the answer to this, as a former downtown Negaunee organizer myself, but why Negaunee?

All of us involved, live or work or own Negaunee businesses. We want to bring positive attention to our downtown district, which we hope will encourage folks to visit Negaunee in the future, when there isn’t a big event.

That’s seriously awesome. The west end of Marquette county does get massively overlooked at times, though I know there are folks across the county trying to change that. I mean, really, I’ve lived in cities and I had to drive as far as Ishpeming to Marquette to go to a real grocery store or something similar. I really view central Marquette County as one entity.

Do you plan on making this an annual event?

We have talked with the city about possibly making the country music fest an annual event. That decision will ultimately be made once we and the city convene after this years event to discuss the outcome. A second, similar event with a different musical genre has also been discussed for earlier in the summer based on the outcome of this first event.

So you plan on doing future events under the moniker “Thunder on the Iron Range” then?

Yes, it is our goal to have several annual TOTIR events. Country Music Fest, a Rock Show or Fest, Motorcycle Rally or Hot Rod Cruise In, etc are all ideas that have been discussed.

Let’s talk a little more about “Thunder on the Iron Range.” What exactly is it, and how did it come about?

Thunder on the Iron Range, LLC is an event production and promotion company created to produce events here on the west end “up on the Iron Range” outside of Marquette proper.

It initially started when we lobbied to get “HOG” the Harley-Davidson Owners Group to have their 2015 State Rally here in Negaunee instead of Marquette. That ultimately didn’t happen, but the name “Thunder on the Iron Range” stuck in our heads and has grown into something bigger and better.  

So this is a completely separate entity from your other well known enterprise Jackson’s Pit?

Yes, COMPLETELY separate.

Anything else you’d like to get out there to our readers?

Just that we encourage all attendees to please come downtown whether by car, on foot or by the free shuttle from Lakeview School with an open mind. This is an inaugural event, and even though we’ve spent many hours planning every aspect of the festival, there are likely to be unexpected curve balls thrown at us. Patience is key.

Also, we’d like to remind folks because of their attendance, we are able to make sizable donations to the Vista Theater, The NHS Girls Softball program and the Negaunee Fire Department.

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