It is time to gear up for an inspired Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival experience. Each June, this festival attracts 80,000 to 100,000 people to farm land in Manchester, Tennessee for four long days and nights of music, dancing, and artistic expression.
Music simply tastes better outside. But Bonnaroo is no picnic in the park. People looking for theme park services need to roll VIP style or go on Jam Cruise instead, because Bonnaroo is intense. Exposure to the elements, heat, humidity, dust, mud, long hikes and long hours make this festival a marathon.
Bonnaroo is a great adventure in which the key to avoiding misadventure is being prepared. When you’ve got what you need, when you need it, too much rain-humidity-walking-standing-sun may slow you down, but it won’t spoil your fun.
The appropriate gear is helpful, but most important is a community minded attitude of self care and care for others. Bonnaroo emphasizes sustainability which we can support not just by recycling and ridesharing, but by sustaining our own health, and helping others out as well.
This checklist has evolved over the past few years to help daytrippers remember the essentials. This is not a list for campers – but it will inform campers what to put in their day pack for Centeroo. For more information from seasoned festival goers, check out Inforoo forums and Leo’s Bonnaroo Bound.
Plan your schedule: Check out bands online, print a paper schedule, and pack it in. You might have a smartphone, but when it dies, you’ll be smart to have a paper copy. You’ll be able to scratch a lot of bands off your list straight off by checking them out on Youtube in advance. Is it something that works in an outdoor music festival setting? IMO solo singer/songwriters are best in coffee shops and concert halls where seating and focus is possible, while danceable, funky, groovy bands are best outside where attention wanders like a butterfly. If you plan your schedule, you won’t have to walk all the way across Centeroo on crowded, dust choked paths to find out that that the act doesn’t rock your boat. Save your energy, and make decisions from the comfort of your own computer.
Happy feet: Just the hike from day parking to Centeroo is long, then there is walking all over Centeroo and standing around. You will be walking miles over uneven ground through fields, dust and mud. There is always a little mud, because water trucks regularly irrigate the roads to keep dust down. Feet will get tired and filthy (yes, a strong word, but appropriate). Are your dogs barking yet? Keep it to a whimper with very comfortable footwear. Here are some ideas:
- Shoes will get very dirty so wear something that can be easily cleaned (e.g., hosed off).
- Whatever shoes you wear, make sure they feel like slippers on your feet. It is smart to bring a couple bandaids and small pieces of moleskin just in case. Any rub/chafe spots will create hot spots, which turn into blisters quickly. If you feel a hot spot, put a bandage on the spot immediately, then cover the area with a piece of moleskin. The idea is to avoid blisters at all costs.
- Keen closed toe sandals with straps work great – being comfortable and cleanable. They’ll protect your toes in the mosh pit. Chaco sandals offer great arch support.
- Tom’s and Sanuk’s canvas slip on shoes offer the house slipper effect. Spray them with water repellant spray, and consider wearing arch support insoles in them.
- If fashion is no object, Crocs are OK because of the padding and easy to wash – but slippery in mud. If you are wearing Crocs, you might as well wear socks for super comfy feet.
- You’ll see the kids wearing flips, but flip flops are not great for hiking and dancing. If it rains, all the dust turns to mud, and mud eats flips.
- Hiking boots and tall rubber boots are overkill (sauna effect), but if forecast calls for rain, you might wear hiking sandals, garden clogs or rubber ankle boots that can be hosed off.
- Barefoot is not good – beware of outhouse juice.
- Have a couple different footwear options and leave one in the car. You might hike back to the car at sundown for a tailgate break, lose the sunhat and sunglasses, get long sleeves and change shoes. If you hike all the way back to car, you might treat yourself to a towel, soap and jug of water in the car to wash your hands, face, and especially feet.
- Take advantage of the golf cart taxis. At 2am, it can feel like a lifesaver to take the taxi from Centeroo to your car in day parking. The cost is low – like $5 per person.
Day parking: Day parking is available Thursday- Sunday. (In years prior to 2012, day parking was not available
on Thursday, to dedicate resources to getting overnight campers onsite). The parking lots are fields located a long walk from the main gates – at least 20 minutes. The later in the day you arrive, the longer the walk. There is plenty of official Bonnaroo day parking free, so there is no need to park in the private front yards that people turn into parking lots for $5 or more per car. Remember to carefully note where you park, since it will be most likely dark upon return. Note that day parking is accessed via Bushy Branch Road (via I-24 exit 111) and the west toll booth, on the west side of the festival.
Stash of cash: Take lots of cash for the essentials, extras, and souvenirs. Vendors have nice stuff (clothing, jewelry, glassware, etc.). Even if a vendor takes cards, it is good karma to use cash so that they don’t have to pay fees. The food and drink is expensive, but a lot of it is high quality, even organic. Food and merchandise costs less on Shakedown Street (official vendors in camping area), than inside Centeroo. Shakedown Street is not on the way to Centeroo from day parking – you’ll have to seek it out. Look at the official Bonnaroo map, or ask a staffer or golf cart taxi driver.
Weather: It is usually hot and humid, but then a thunder shower can pop up and rain hard. Check the weather forecast for Manchester, TN, zip 37355. A plastic poncho is real nice to have when it rains. Hopefully it will stay packed in your bag, or get pulled out as a ground cloth. The rain doesn’t usually stick around for long.
Stay hydrated: Water bottles carried in must be factory sealed or empty. You can refill bottles at hydration stations in Centeroo…expect a line. Look at your Bonnaroo map to find all the hydration stations. Leave frozen water bottles in a cooler in your car for cold water when driving home.
Shirts happen: Besides drinking lots of water, wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. If you are a “professional” shirtless guy or bikini babe, then by all means, make yourself comfortable. You won’t see sun damage for years anyways. For tender skinned folks, or those who feel like more of a spectacle than spectacular in their swimsuit, feel free to keep your shirt on.
Snacks: Plan to eat frequent, small snacks and meals. Big meals weigh you down, while smaller meals keep your energy level even. Save a lot money and keep your energy up by bringing your own brownies, cookies, etc., to supplement hot food from vendors. Jalapeno veggie corn dogs at $5 a pop are a favorite with the veggie crowd.
Ear plugs are essential: Be kind to your hearing and don’t stand in front of the speakers. The sound is better when you are centered between the speakers, like the soundboard crew and tapers.
- Contraband: No glass bottles or pocket knives are allowed into day parking or Centeroo. No drug paraphernalia is allowed in Centeroo. The professional security staff is trained to search, find and confiscate. They will pat you down and search bags each time you enter Centeroo. Some of them are quite (too) thorough and will look in cigarette boxes, cargo short pockets, hats, etc.
Charge your phone: Make sure your cell phone has a full charge. Plan on texting because it is often impossible to hear a conversation on the phone.
Get your yoga on: There are more yoga classes at Bonnaroo 2013 than ever before. Most of the time, the instruction is worth getting up for and hiking in to the Solar Stage. The main classes start at 9 and 10:15am Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Bring your own mat. Special guest MC Yogi is playing at 11:30am on Saturday, 2013. Ganesh is fresh!
Seating: Bring something to sit on, like a lightweight blanket or tarp. Thermarest inflatable camp seats take up very little space and make your bum happy. The ground is quite dusty in many places. The grass is cow pasture style, not soft front lawn style.
More stuff: You’ll want hands free, so pack your stuff in a backpack, sling pack, or cross body bag. Keep yourself kissable with SPF lip balm and mints for sweet breath. Lozenges help with dry throat from dust. Women might want a powder compact with mirror. Insects were not a problem (not in Centeroo at least). I’ve never needed insect repellent. A bandanna handkerchief is truly useful, and not just for wiping your sweaty brow and nose (lots of dust means black gunk in the nose): get it wet and cool yourself down; hold it over your nose when the paths get dusty.
The finer things: Leave the valuables at home. Unless you are rolling VIP style, Bonnaroo is not the place to wear fine clothing, nice shoes, or expensive jewelry because it will get dirty at best. Wear things you can sit on the ground in, that can get wet, that you can sweat in, etc.
Merch: If you want an official Bonnaroo T shirt, go to the Merchandise tent in Centeroo as early as possible. They always sell out of the best stuff and most common sizes.
Comedy: You’ll need to plan ahead to see a comedy show. It is incredibly popular and you will definitely be waiting in line. Check the schedule…tickets for the next show are given out after the current show starts. You’ll have to stand in line for a ticket and get in another line to be admitted.
How to get in front at What stage and Which Stage: What Stage (the big stage) and Which Stage (the second biggest) have an impassable crowd control barrier in front of the stage. Walk to the left or right of the stage and you can walk a path to get to the very front of the stage. Anyone can get inside the barrier, but security manages the number of people so that it is never packed.
- Bonnaroo Beacon: The official Bonnaroo newspaper, brought to us by Relix magazine, is published daily. Read news, reviews, and schedule updates. Pick it up at the Relix booth in Centeroo, across from the Sonic Stage.
What to wear to Bonnaroo: People watching is great fun at Bonnaroo. You’ll see all kinds of creative get ups and costumes in addition to the usual garb. Ladies bring on the fairy dust, feathers, and belly dance scarves. People usually wear as little as they feel comfortable wearing given the heat, while needing sun protection as well. Everything gets dirty! Only bring or wear it if it can be easily cleaned or you don’t mind it getting ruined.
Women what to wear:
- Hat with brim – straw cowboy hats are popular
- Sundress or skirt and tank
- Loose over shirt with roll up sleeves (may want long sleeves for warmth after sundown)
- Underneath: Bathing suit bottoms, bikini top, short lycra shorts (good for yoga and anti chafing)
- For additional sun protection: lightweight/gauzy scarf
Men what to wear:
- Short sleeve collar shirt (has more coverage than t shirt)
- Cargo shorts
- Hat with brim (has more coverage than baseball cap)
- May want long sleeved shirt for eve
The Unofficial Bonnaroo Carry in Checklist
- Backpack, sling pack, or cross body bag
- Bonnaroo bracelet (it must be said)
- Bonnaroo guide book with map (pick up at entrance)
- Car keys; extra car key carried by someone else in group
- Pared down wallet/money clip: ID, cash
- Fully charged cell phone
- Factory sealed water bottles or empty refillables
- Custom schedule print out and pen to make notes
- Ear plugs
- Lightweight ground cloth/tarp/blanket/sarong
- Inflatable seat
- Snacks: cookies / brownies / granola bars
- Lip balm with SPF, mints, lozenges
- Couple waterproof bandages and small squares of moleskin
- Individual towelette wipes (to clean hands before eating)
- Travel yoga mats (for yoga and for ground cover)
- Plastic rain ponchos
- Ladies…Powder compact with mirror; menstrual gear if there is a chance you’ll need it.
Stuff to leave in car for tailgate break
- Remember no glass/pets/knives
- Jug of water with towels and soap to wash feet, face, hands
- Change of clothes and shoes
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- EmergenC packets
- frozen water bottles
- margarita mix or refreshing beverage of choice
- sandwiches, wraps or other supper food
- dark chocolate
- iced coffee
By gearing up and “keeping your hat on” during Bonnaroo, you will have an excellent adventure. Take care of yourself and look out for your neighbor and we’ll all enjoy Bonnaroo to the fullest. Glad to share the vibes with you and happy to read your comments.