For many of us, summertime means sitting poolside, road trips to the beach, and of course, festivals. Some of the biggest festivals of the year have already come and gone, but I’m here to deliver a recap of one of the most well-known music festivals in the country: Bonnaroo.
Bonnaroo is a four-day music festival held on a farm in Manchester, Tennessee, and most definitely packs a punch. The annual event hosts a variety of acts every year with down-to-earth venders and artisans. Music lovers, brace yourselves. I’m about to take you into the southern-roots festival, give a few tips along the way, and let you know what other festivals are coming your way.
They say “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That idiom certainly applies here. When delving into what to bring, what to leave at home, and everything in between, I believed I had a concrete idea of what to expect from the festival. My assumption was I needed to bring a tent, festival wear, and a positive outlook. While these are all necessary items, the website gave me a bit more insight into what I needed than I anticipated.
In addition to these items, the list included a canopy tent, tarp, umbrella, rain boots, sunscreen, water bottle, a cooler full of safe-to-leave-out food, comfortable shoes, bandana, and so much more. It’s really overwhelming when you look at the full checklist, but let me assure you, every single one of these items was necessary. I truly cannot stress the importance of the water bottle, sunscreen, and comfortable shoes. All-in-all, just make sure you mark off everything on this list, and you will be one happy camper.
After stuffing everything into one car, and a three-hour drive, my friend and I made it to the check point entry. When looking at the website beforehand, we knew we would have our car searched for any hazardous materials or illegal substances. We just had no idea quite how extensive it would be. Upon arrival, we were asked to step out of the vehicle while two police officers searched the entirety of the car. And I do mean entirety. From checking cups, to looking under each seat, and all of our bags, they searched every square inch of the car before we ourselves were patted down and told we were good to go.
Unfortunately for the car getting searched next to ours, they did not share the same fate. I’m telling you, kids, following the rules is better than losing a $400 ticket from a car search. Once given the go-ahead, we were ecstatic to get to our campsite and start setting up. Not so fast. We were then sent to another check point where the same search was performed. This happened a total of three times before we could finally enter the grounds. The moral of the story is be prepared to be searched multiple times before the real fun starts.
Once we found our camp site and set everything up, it was time to lather up the sunscreen and hit the “Centeroo” (this is where all of the activities are held during the festival). When you get to the gate at the Centeroo, they will do another bag search, FYI. This process was quick and simple, and we were immediately allowed into the festival. So, remember when I said “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? That applies here once again. I knew from being southern lady, and common sense, that it would be hot in Tennessee in June. I just had no idea how hot. Bringing a bandana didn’t seem all that important when we first left our campsite, but we quickly realized how incorrect that was. You will sweat consistently for the entire festival, with the exception of the nights (it actually gets really cold at night because of the elevation. Bring a sweater with you!). Reapplying sunscreen every hour is a necessary nuisance, unless you don’t mind severe sunburns.
Thankfully, the festival includes a few fun ways to cool off. First, there’s the fountain in the middle of Centeroo that’s basically your saving grace for those times where you think the heat just might kill you. Then, there’s the aptly named “Big Ass Slide” near the comedy tent. You have to buy tickets, but it’s one hundred percent worth it. There are also drink stations and water refill towers throughout the festival. Personally, I tried to steer clear from alcohol until after the sun went down to help avoid dehydration and making my skin more prone to burning (it’s true, it’s a thing). But I definitely witnessed my fair share of drunk Bonnaroovians slurring throughout the festival all day, and I tip my hat at them for their dedication and bravery. Moral of the story: keep covered up, cool off when possible, and stay hydrated. This will keep you going for the long haul. Lastly, if you’re concerned about charging your phone, fret not! There are conveniently placed charging stations in each Pod (campsite), and all throughout the Centeroo.
Jams & Jokes
For those who don’t know, Bonnaroo is more than a music festival. It also hosts comedians, and even has a movie theater. Odds are, you and your friends will want to see different shows at one point or another. There are two stages (named Which Stage and What Stage), and four tents (This Tent, That Tent, The Other Tent, and The Comedy Tent) spread across the grounds. Someone will always be playing at each of these, and you will likely have a conflict of interest over one or more acts. That’s where the comedy tent and movie theater step in.
My camping buddy and I met up with another friend while at the festival, and for the most part stayed in close quarters and went to the same shows. The exception was one night when two bands were playing that each of them wanted to see, and I had no interest in either. The solution? One friend went to the What Stage, one went to Which Stage, and I found myself at the comedy tent (FYI: It’s air conditioned, so I was all about it). While we got to see many musical acts perform, we also got the opportunity to see Saturday Night Live’s Vanessa Bayer and Pete Davidson perform their stand up routines. I really enjoyed the fact that it offers such diversity of musical acts, and even types of performers. Bravo, Bonnaroo!
Leaving was actually much more difficult than I imagined. I had so much fun hanging out with my friends, getting to know new people, and finding so many new artists to listen to. It was the most exhausting experience of my life, but it is one I will cherish forever. When you go, be sure to make your checklist, pack appropriately, and keep cool to make your Bonnaroo experience one you actually won’t forget.
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Looking to attend a festival of your own this year? We found a few upcoming events you should check out! Don’t see our favorite listed? Let us know your go-to summer festival in the comments section! You can also let us know on Twitter and Facebook!
Vans Warped Tour: June 17-August 8, Various Locations
Panorama Festival: July 22-24, Randall’s Island, NY
Lollapalooza: July 28-31, Chicago, IL
Burning Man: August 28-Setember 5, Black Rock, NV
Bumbershoot: September 2-4, Seattle, WA
Austin City Limits: September 30-October 2, Austin, TX