5 Things You Didn’t Know About Bonnaroo

Feb 4, 2020


April Hanna

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Bonnaroo has become a staple in the festival world. Known for its laid back “on-the-farm” atmosphere and stacked lineups, the event has developed a culture and style all its own. Think you know everything about the ‘Roo? Read on to sharpen up your festival wisdom so you can impress your friends with nuggets of knowledge all weekend long.

Bonnaroo’s Beginnings

Many regulars who attend Bonnaroo don’t know where the weekend of the music on the Farm got its beginnings. Ashley Capps, a veteran music promoter, and three of her friends who had recently graduated college organized and produced the very first Bonnaroo in 2002. Their goal was to make an event that would help pay off their student loan debts (and their idea definitely worked). It was held at what is now called Great Stage Park in Manchester, Tennessee – back then, it was simply a 700-acre farm, suitable for the amount of people the organizers expected to attend. Little did we know that the festival would continue to be held upon the farm grounds to this day. With a turnout of 70,000 festival attendees, Bonnaroo proved to be something special, and worth continuing annually.

Bonnaroo’s Annual Attendance

Bonnaroo’s annual attendance has fluctuated from year-to-year. The lowest attendance was 45,500 in 2016, and the highest was in 2012, with a whopping 100,000 people in attendance on the farm. What’s even more wild is that Manchester, Tennessee is a town of merely 100,000 full time residents. Last year, 80,000 music lovers were in attendance on the farm, a true median for the festival overall. For the most part, Bonnaroo usually garners around 70,000-80,000 people total, and with this year’s killer lineup, we expect nothing less.

Bonnaroo’s Green Initiatives

Bonnaroo is a festival that’s well known for its sustainability efforts. The festival places a great deal of importance on reducing its carbon footprint, and educating festival attendees about the importance of recycling. The annual Planet Roo tent aims to bring educational “green activities” to those at the festival who want to learn more about Bonnaroo’s recycling efforts, as well as ways to contribute to reducing the festival’s amount of waste while there. In 2004, the festival reported that it had prevented 120 tons of waste collection through its sustainability strategies, such as its campaigns for festival goers to recycle and the utilization of recyclable drinkware through its food vendors. They even aim to use half of the festival’s trash for non-landfill purposes, like composting and making scrap metal. Now that’s an effort worth celebrating.

If you need a break from all the live music during your weekend on the Farm, head over to the Planet Roo section of the festival grounds to learn more, and check out more info here.

The First Bonnaroo Lineup

The first Bonnaroo Music Festival was held in 2002 and had some pretty hard-hitting acts as far as the early 2000’s were concerned. Headliners included Widespread Panic, Trey Anastasio, Ben Harper, The String Cheese Incident, and Phil Lesh & Friends with special guest Bob Weir. Other notable acts that were in attendance include Galactic, Gov’t Mule, Moe., Ween, and Big Wu. While bands have come and gone throughout Bonnaroo’s lineups, the festival has always maintained its footing across a multitude of genres.

The Meaning Behind “Bonnaroo”

What does the name Bonnaroo mean anyway? Where did it come from? The catchy monicker pays homage to the late, great New Orleans jazz-soul legend Dr. John. His 1974 album Desitively Bonnaroo was a tribute to his New Orleans background. “Bonnaroo” is a French-Creole slang word that translates to “best on the street,” and “a really good time.” Both these meanings describe the festival to a T (or should we say B?)

Bonnaroo Tickets

Official Bonnaroo tickets go on sale on January 9. There are several ticket types, tiers, and add-ons, so be sure to check out all of your options. Four-day general admission passes start at $319 plus fees.​ Looking to shop around, or waiting until summer gets closer to secure your plans? You can always find tickets on SeatGeek! Use code BONNAROO20 at checkout for $20 off your ticket purchase. Browse tickets here or view select listings below.

(Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash)