Each June since 2002, more than 100,000 people converge on the small town of Manchester, Tenn., for the outdoor music festival known as Bonnaroo.
Held on a more-than- 700-acre- farm-turned-music venue known as Great Stage Park, Bonnaroo has established itself as one of the premiere outdoor music festivals in the world, and it truly does attract a world-wide audience.
As a veteran of 12 Bonnaroo Music & Art Festivals, I offer you eight tips to make the most of your trip.
Bonnaroo – Tips, Tricks, and Tidbits
Know the lingo.
The Farm, Bonnaroovian Code, This Tent, Which Stage, Centeroo – those are only a few of the important phrases you need to know as you immerse yourself into the Bonnaroo lifestyle. These definitions can be found in the Bonnaroo handbooks distributed to attendees.
Get the official Bonnaroo handbook on your first day.
While it may not include all the answers, it has most of them. It also has the Bonnaroovian Code, which teaches you the secrets to “life on the farm.” Most importantly, it has maps that will cut down on your walking.
It is going to be hot, so get used to it.
If it rains, it is going to be hotter later; if the weather is “unseasonably cool,” it is still going to be hot. Remember, this is southern Tennessee in an area with little-to-no shade. With that in mind, be sure to drink lots of water, wear sunscreen, and feel free to take a stroll under the Mushroom Fountain in Centeroo.
If you feel that modern plumbing is a “must have,” Bonnaroo is not for you.
Even though organizers this year installed traditional restrooms, the majority of bodily functions will still be handled via port-a-potty. Showers are available in the campgrounds – for a fee. Be sure to pack lots of wet wipes, and you might even consider a trip to the Bonnaroo hair salon (which is air conditioned), if you don’t mind waiting in line.
Boots were made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do at one of the United States’ largest music festivals.
With a festival spanning 700 acres, it naturally takes effort to get from one place to another, and you will be walking. The walk from some camping areas to the festival entrance can be more than a mile hike. Don’t forget to leave yourself time to get places; in addition to the distance, you are also navigating this space with 110,000 of your closest friends.
Enter with an open mind.
You will see things that are, to put it mildly, probably out of the norm. Every kind of person on the planet is represented in some form or fashion at the Roo.
Every year I attend, I find at least five things that cause me to think, “I’ve never seen that before… and I’ll never see that again.”
Best of all, everything you see will be accepted without judgment by other Bonnaroovians.
Bonnaroo is not all about the music, it’s about being a better human being while on the farm.
You can learn countless things about the environment, as well as shop for handmade items, eat unique foods, ride the Ferris wheel, do yoga, and the list goes on. (See #2 about getting the guidebook).
My favorite thing to do though is send a postcard from the Bonnaroo Post Office, which has its own postmark and is only open three days a year.
Lose yourself and have fun.
The farm offers every experience you could hope to have at a music festival, camp-out, party, forced march, or hippie-commune, all wrapped into one.
Wil Elrick hails from Guntersville, Alabama where at an early age he developed a love for both trivia and history. He has spent the last 20 odd years, fine tuning the art of communication while working in law enforcement, writing, television media, historical research, and public speaking. He lives in North Alabama with his two boys, and a neurotic German Shepherd Dog. He one day hopes that Bigfoot is proven real. Wil’s new book Alabama Scoundrels is available from History Press.