Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, home to incredible music, arts, food, comedy, and much, much more located in rural Manchester, TN, affectionately known as “the Farm”. Groups flock in from all over the country and world, 80,000 of them, causing the 700-acre farm to become the 7th largest city in Tennessee overnight. Pretty wild, huh?
I had the privilege of attending Bonnaroo last month which was the first overnight music festival I have ever attended. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
People often portray music festivals as drug-fueled hippy-fests where anything goes, so I figured Bonnaroo would align somewhat with these preconceptions…
However, after spending the weekend at Bonnaroo, I saw that my preconceptions were severely lacking and I now understand why people rave about the ‘Roo.
The performers were epic and the food was great. But what really did it for me went a step beyond that. I was blown away by the warm, welcoming community of my fellow Bonnaroovians (yes that’s a real term, I didn’t make it up).
One of the key principles of The Bonnaroovian Code is “Radiate Positivity”, and it is clear that this is something that each and every person takes to heart. You got a sense of the community from the second you entered the fest until the second you left.
[First timers] don’t buy their ticket to be struck by awesome people, they buy their ticket to hang out with their circle of friends and listen to their favorite music. But when they get to Bonnaroo, that’s when they realize what the farm is really about…. – Tom S.
What the Farm is Really About
When my friends and I first arrived to our campsite, it was time to set up our tents. After hopelessly struggling for a few minutes, our neighbors on both sides kindly offered to help us.
Despite the 80+ degree heat and suffocating humidity, our new friends helped us for the next 45 minutes as we followed the seemingly neverending cycle of (incorrectly) setting up our tent, frustratingly breaking it down after realizing we set it up wrong, and then brainstorming/strategizing until we FINALLY were able to reach a final product … that was still far from correct but it stood up on its own and kept the bugs out so we were was happy with it. This was just my first experience with the awesome community…
A few days later, I was leaving the concert grounds by myself to head back to meet my friends at our tent. A stranger ran up to me and screamed, “Yo dude! Are you alone? You need a buddy to chat with?”
I was taken aback a bit at first then agreed to this friendly gesture. I
ended up having a great conversation with this kind stranger who simply wanted to talk and offered his company after seeing me by myself. Further, this guy didn’t appear to be on any drugs nor was heavily intoxicated – just simply a friendly, sober stranger reaching out to another stranger – what a concept right?!
And the friendliness only continued. Everyone was incredibly outgoing and kind. Walking from our campsite to the festival grounds was a constant reminder of the melting pot of my fellow music-fest-goers; I saw numerous flags from different states, different countries and other backgrounds and walks of life.
Wherever you were, regardless of the time, it was nearly impossible to walk a few hundred feet without being offered a high-five or at least hearing a fellow Bonnaroovian scream “WOOOOHOOO! BONNAROOOOO!
Beyond the ‘Roo… What the World Can Learn
Yes, the Bonnaroovian community is a pretty mixed bag… There were women dressed like men and men dressed like women. There were people with dreadlocks, tattoos, piercings. There were people wearing ridiculous clothing and some wearing little to no clothing.
There were gays. There were lesbians. There were liberals, there were conservatives. There were “hippies” (lots and lots of them). There were “rednecks”, there were “prepsters” and many more. There were black people, white people, Hispanic people, Australian people, people from every corner of the globe. There were Jews, Catholics, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and more.
But the thing is all these people were singing and dancing to the same music…and that’s how it should be
The above “descriptions” (gay or straight, black or white, Christian or Jewish, conservative or liberal) were just irrelevant, useless adjectives that existed outside of the Farm but not within it. Everyone within the ‘Roo was seen as a friend, a peer, an equal with whom we all had the same common interest – to have a damn good time!
I think Bonnaroo is a place where you can truly experience freedom without fear of rejection or judgement. I’m not sure if I can tell you why, because I think it might just be magic (or the right people at the right place at the right time). – Haley A.
More often than not, we have many things in common with others. However, the moment we label someone as X, Y or Z, we lose sight of what they have to offer behind our judgment.
Bonnaroo was a judgment-free weekend full of good vibes in which people of all colors, shapes, sizes and backgrounds could let loose without any reservations…and everyone else was 100% fine with that.
And that’s why the world needs to become more like Bonnaroo. It was a beautiful thing to witness and an even more incredible thing to experience.
Thank you Bonnaroo – see you next year.