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Bonnaroo 2011: From Traffic to Clothes, Tips to Keep the Week Going Strong

by on June 09, 2011 8:45 AM

For four days, Bonnaroo transforms a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tenn., into one of the biggest cities in the south.

Thousands -- including a number of Penn Staters -- make the annual pilgrimage there, building their own community, own culture, own atmosphere. Bonnaroo 2011 begins Thursday.

If this is your first year, you may have some questions about what you need to bring and what to expect. Below you'll find some of the best helpful hints to keep the week going strong and count as a time you'll never forget, yet barely remember.


No matter where you come from, most people are driving a distance to get to Manchester. Of course, you will need to carpool there and back, but remember some things specifically for your automobile. During this week, police profile heavily. Do not write "Bonnaroo or Bust" on your car or drive a hippie Volkswagen van. Try to fit everything in your trunk and be sure not to travel with any illegal objects -- drugs, weapons, immigrants -- and you'll be golden on your way there and back.

Also, don't forget to check and start your car up a few times a day. This will make sure that none of your friends left the lights on or a door open all night. It also gives you the chance to give your phone a quick boost or feel the air-conditioning that you realized you have taken for granted your whole life. Your car is your lifeline for that week, so treat her well.

ProTip: It is a fact that during this week, police from Florida to Maine will heavily profile on major highways that lead toward Tennessee. Watch your back, have your friends keep an eye out and -- most importantly -- don't do anything that will warrant a traffic stop. You want to spend the week at Roo with hundreds of bands, not in some back-country jail cell with a scratchy AM radio.


This is a four-day event with one to two days of travel time before and after, so plan on at least a week of music and friends. The majority of the people in attendance sleep outside or in tents. If you're a jerk who takes an RV, don't even bother telling people you are a true Roo'er. Generally, You will never sleep past 10 a.m. since the sun heats up the inside of the tents with 90-degree weather, so plan on getting about three hours of sleep each night (unless you rage all night for Girltalk's epic performances). Your best bet is to use a canopy and some tapestries or sheets to block the sun. This will give you a breezy sleep space as well as more room and less stuffy air to relax in.


In Roo World, there are no police: there are only Mounties who patrol to maintain order and make sure no one is dead or overdosed. The Mounties don't carry guns -- only mace and Tasers to maintain order, which are very rarely used. As long as you don't touch their horses or anger the Mounties, you'll be able to cohabitate with your pals in blue. The only other security exists at the inner gate separating the camping from the stages. Don't plan on taking this seriously since most of the people at the gates are volunteers and are there only for a free ticket.

ProTip: When a helicopter flies overhead (usually police or a news station), the security will tighten up and make it look like they take their job seriously. Plan accordingly or expect to wait a little longer if you're in line when "the man" hovers overhead.


At any given time, there may be six or more known artists playing at different stages at the same time. So, when you get there, make sure you know the schedule and what you really want to see and the location of each stage. Trust me: It's a hell of a walk from the main stage all the way across the farm to the indie-rock stage. Keep a copy of what you want to see for the day with you, and try to find someone who is smart enough to wear a watch or someone who is wearing enough clothes that it looks like he or she may have a phone.

Most of the big-name acts usually play unrivaled, which means you're set if you want to see Buffalo Springfield or Widespread Panic. Other acts during the day may overlap, so be ready to make a big decision between Weezy or Bassnectar on Friday (tough, huh?).


When you are in a world where police and laws are non-existent, you will see a plethora of things you have never seen in the usual public. This may be girls (or guys) who choose not to wear clothing regardless of whether you think they have good bodies. For the most part, a pair of shorts, bandanna and sunglasses are all a guy needs. And for girls, well, the same thing is acceptable. Or you can wear a swimsuit top if you aren't feeling that risky.

No matter what you decide, you'll see people with less and wish you had cojones to do the same thing. You won't need to change much unless it turns into a mud-throwing concert, which is entirely possible depending on weather. You'll be able to get water from the spigots and wash whatever you need, so pack the lightest and most comfortable clothes you can since clothes are just a nuisance there, anyway.

ProTip: Don't stress on what to wear. Think swimsuit during the day and LA club during the night, except there are no laws requiring you to actually wear anything.

Earlier coverage

Marcus Correll is a Penn State journalism student, an Onward State writer and a summer intern. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] His Twitter handle is @marcuscorrell.
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