Fort William Historical Park turns into a party hub on Friday nights

Country on the Bay attracts thousands looking for a fun night of music and entertainment.

THUNDER BAY — Following country star Brett Kissel’s last local performance in 2018, he said he told fans throughout the remainder of his tour that if they ever wanted a place to party, they should go to Thunder Bay.

He also told every other country singer he met at the circuit that summer.

While musicians are known for overdoing the moment and playing in front of the crowd, Kissel wasn’t wrong, at least not judging by the crowd on Friday’s second night of entertainment at the Country on the Bay music festival.

Country fans young and old, eager to get back on their feet and party like there’s no tomorrow for more than two years, flocked to Fort William Historic Park.

They grew louder as the night sky grew darker, and each act did their best to outdo the one before, no easy feat given the sheer amount of talent that graced the stage on Friday night.

It was exactly what Nick Phyllis was looking for when he bought tickets to the festival, which originally lined up with country star Toby Keith until he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and had several summer performances cancelled.

“It’s definitely a great thing. We haven’t had anything during the pandemic, so opening a big show like this is like a miracle. It’s fun for everyone to come to Thunder Bay and listen to some big names. It’s exciting,” he said.

Phyllis added he’s most looking forward to seeing Kissel and Lee Brice, the closing act on Saturday night.

“Some of their songs are super catchy,” he said. “But everyone, even last night, the Reclaws were great, so I’m excited.”

The celebrations began at 3:00 p.m. with Mackenzie Leigh Meyer followed by Nate Haller and Jojo Mason entertaining the communion audience and setting the stage for the party to come.

The Hunter Brothers delivered a set that reached a crescendo with a medley of some of the country’s biggest hits, while Jade Eagleson, who won the Showcase for Emerging Artists at Boots and Hearts Music Festival 2017, put on a dynamite show that reached No 1 singles included All night to find out and drink more than fishin‘ joked that co-collaborator Dean Brody missed his flight, which is why he wasn’t on stage to sing it with him.

But it was Kissel the crowd came for and the 30-year-old Albertan delivered as promised.

“Are you ready to party, Thunder Bay?” the JUNO Award winner asked, looking out at the crowd, where his fans made it clear who they wanted to see.

“Keep calm and listen to Brett Kissel. I love this t shirt. I already know what kind of night we have ahead of us.”

In addition to Brice, Saturday’s lineup includes The Road Hammers, Jesse Moskaluke, Tim Albertson, Megan Nadin and DJ Johnny Rivex, who heated up the crowd between sets with a mix of country favorites and pop classics.

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