By Timothy Rawles / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ
(Kearny, AZ) An Elvis impersonator isn’t what you’d expect as an opening act to a large outdoor country music festival, but that’s exactly what you’re going to get at the Gila River Music Festival happening on April 22 — 23.
In its second year, this bombastic get-together is finding its footing in Arizona’s long list of outdoor music shows. The pandemic slowed its start last year, but bigger acts and fan-fueled artists are making this year’s attempt a step closer in the right direction.
On Saturday evening, breakout female country star Ashley Wineland takes the stage during her American tour. Her single “Drive Me to Drink” was a moderate country hit in 2021.
The massive jam session will take place at the rural Sherriff’s Posse Arena, away from the more populated regions of the surrounding area.
Pinal is one of the fastest-growing counties in Arizona and concerts such as Country Thunder in Florence brought with it gridlocked traffic, which shouldn’t be a problem for Gila River. Last year’s ticket buyers were estimated at about 300. There were some issues with electricity and water usage, but organizers say this year should go smoothly.
In 2021, the biggest crowd draw was the band Reckless Envy who will return this year, closing out opening day, but they will return on Saturday at noon. Fans love the band’s use of harmony. Another facet of the band that makes them stand out is their instrumentals which includes rock violinist Virginia Evans. Her German five-string custom-made carbon fiber violin has become the star of the show.
Jamie Ramsey, Mayor of Kearny, was the organizer of last year’s event. “It was nice to see the town buzzing with activity,” she said in 2021. “Ace Hardware sold out on camp chairs. The local hotel was booked solid. The grocery, convenience stores, and restaurants all had a lot of activity from the visitors.”
For 2022 the event has been moved from Pioneer Park to Sheriff’s Posse Arena on Veteran’s Way.
Organizers are hoping that tourists come to Kearny for the music, but return for the hiking trails, lake access, restaurants, and public parks. This is all, in part, to bring art and cultural awareness to rural areas of Arizona.
Keeping concertgoers fed won’t be a problem with the selection of food trucks scheduled to roll into the event. Some of the eats on wheels will include One Hot Mess, El Pastorcito Tacos, Maui Wowi, and Dirty Sno Wagon.
You can bring in your own beverages, but glass containers are prohibited.
The scheduled lineup is as follows.
Friday, April 22:
Alex Hernandez as Elvis at 11 a.m.
Sydney Swanson at noon
Aaron McCall at 1 p.m.
Tequila Moon at 3 p.m.
Reckless Envy at 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 23:
Eddie Gutierrez at 11 a.m.
Reckless Envy takes the stage at noon
Traveler at 2 p.m.
Power Drive at 4 p.m.
Matt Farris at 6 p.m.
Ashley Wineland goes on at 8 p.m.
Jahlos and the Rebels at 10 p.m.
More acts could be added.
In California, the desert has been the preferred venue for outdoor music fests. From Coachella to Stagecoach, getting massive amounts of people in one place at the same time, it makes sense to utilize expansive spaces.
With Arizona’s vast amount of wide-open landscape, the smaller Gila River Music Festival seems poised to put the town of Kearny on the entertainment map for more than just historic train cars and old copper mines.
The Gila River Music Festival takes place at 1545 Veterans Way, in Kearny. For more information visit the festival website.