Every year the Great Stage Park of Manchester Tennessee hosts a colorfully eccentric celebration of music, camping and art.
Every year, 80,000 or so intrepid music lovers convene in the Great Stage Park of Manchester Tennessee for what might be the weirdest, most colorfully eccentric celebration of music, camping and art. The word “bonnaroo” is Creole slang for a “a really good time” and honors the rich New Orleans music tradition that inspired the founders of this now 17-year-old festival. Since selling out their inaugural 2002 festival in two weeks, Bonnaroo has become a vibrant mainstay in the festival world. Rolling Stone magazine listed it under "50 Moments That Changed Rock & Roll" and GQ Magazine placed Bonnaroo in their list of the 10 Best Festivals.
Spanning four summer days it features artists of remarkable diversity; everything from popular rock, alt, indie, pop, hip hop, electronic and rap to reggae, indie, jazz, world music, folk and gospel. But it isn’t just colorful in musical genre; Bonnaroo is also known for immersive community art, eccentric attendees, community and involvement far beyond the music and campground community and also charitable involvement. They’ve donated a portion of proceeds over the years to Doctors Without Borders, Head Count, MusiCares, Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Club of America, Rock the Earth, the American Red Cross, and the Sierra Club. The festival actively supports recycling and sustainability and have won awards for their efforts.
During Bonnaroo, the Great Stage park hosts a festival setup that is more than remarkable in its’ own merit. Their festival map is almost too much to take in. Themed campgrounds are situated in ten unique Plazas around Centeroo, the main festival grounds. Last years’ campgrounds included Camp Zoolander, Camp Mr Miyagi, Camp R2D2 and Camp Ferris Bueller, among others. Each plaza features communal gathering areas and activities, community art, shade, wifi, charging stations, medical, restrooms and showers as well as a trading post and security. Plazas this year include Plaza 2: Sanctuary of Self Love, curated by Hayley Williams of Paramore (with Bougie Roo beauty stations, sound baths and daily sunrise and sunset meditations), and Plaza 3: House of Yes featuring Little Cinema and a Pride parade. You’ll also find various activity tents; The Silent Disco, The Cinema tent (showing a variety of mainstream and independent movies - popular in part because it is air conditioned) and Planet Roo, which hosts a variety of non-profit organizations sharing information on healthy lifestyles and resource conservation.
“Camping at Bonnaroo is hardly “camping” by most definitions of the word – it’s an endless adventure of discovery and human connection with your fellow Bonnaroovians, and a key part of the Bonnaroo experience. Expect crazy surprises, unique adventures, and stories you’ll tell for a lifetime – this is NOT your average festival camping.”
Within Centeroo, the main festival grounds, you’ll find the Who, Which, What and Other stages, as well as This tent and That tent, numerous food trucks, The Oasis (for a tropical retreat, complete with beach volleyball and a cocktail), Soberoo, Kidsville, Nature-Roo, Splash-a-roo (a giant slip-n-slide area and fountains to beat the heat), tons and tons of art, and endless relaxing nooks to take a load off and enjoy the people-watching.
But the soul of this festival is, of course, the music. Beginning around noon every day and spanning until roughly midnight on the main stages (and to the wee hours of the morning elsewhere for late night shows). Headliners include Phish, Childish Gambino, Post Malone, Odesza, Grand Ole Opry and The Lumineers. But we’ll also see Cardi B, Hozier, Illenium, Walk the Moon, Solange, Griz, The Avett Brothers, RL Grime, The National, The Lonely Island, Kacey Musgraves, Brandi Carlile and many, many others. To say this lineup is big would be an understatement.