published Friday, June 11th, 2010

Blog: Bonnaroo growing older

Bonnaroo, the festival that started as a jam band hippie-fest in 2001, has become a festival for seniors - high school and college graduates, as well as the older set.

The first two are easy enough to understand. Young people are always looking for an adventure and Bonnaroo is a pretty fair rite of passage.

There is really only one rule and that is don’t be stupid. Translated, that means don’t do or say anything that forces anyone in authority to deal with you. They don’t want the drama any more than you do.

Because of that, the festival that takes place in Manchester, Tenn., of all places, has become a place for letting ones hair down.

Obviously, the more experienced set has discovered this works for them as well.

Over the last few years, the festival has seen more and more parents coming with their teens to share in the adventure. This year, the crowd, which is just under 80,000 strong, includes folks in their 60s, 70s and 80sand even one 97-year-old.

Ashlie White, a former Times Free Press photographer is here doing a special piece profiling five people for AARP. Her assignment is to find five people at random and profile them about why they are here.

She has had no trouble finding subjects. One 61-year-old teacher told her she was here for an adventure. She is here with three friends.

Like many people that have braved the long trip into the site, she had never done anything like this before.

To understand why this is so special, you need to understand the conditions. This is not KOA with hot showers, running water and private bathrooms. In fact, it is portable bathrooms for all of us.

Many people do travel in RVs and most come prepared with the latest in hi-tech camping gear. Full meals are prepared and across from me are two campsites with beer trucks with multiple taps.

But, it is muddy and oppressively hot. As I type this at 11:15 at night, my shirt is soaked.

There are no shuttle buses or golf carts. Everyone walks, and depending on where your camp site is, the walk to Centeroo can take almost an hour.

So why do they come? The short answer is for the music, but there is more. It is an opportunity to do something outside of your comfort zone and to have an experience like no other.

Where else can you meet people from all over the world, shop for handmade jewelry, handbags and footlong corndogs while listening to The Dodos at midnight in a field but in the middle of Tennessee?

For the next three nights, the music will play well into the morning and most of the people here will be there. On Tuesday they will go back to their regular lives.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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