WINCHESTER, Tenn. -- Friends Emilio Craddock and Tanner Thul were standing in line that stretched almost 10 yards from the entrance of Bonnaroo's Comedy Tent when it was announced that the 4 p.m. CDT Aziz Ansari show was sold out.
"It was like a horror show where everyone just starts running," 19-year-old Thul said.
They were running for a shady area under some trees and under a perimeter wall.
Shade has always been a hot commodity at the Bonnaroo Arts & Music Festival, and organizers have introduced new elements on the grounds to help keep people cool.
To provide some shade this year, but lots more in the future, 110 indigenous trees were planted this year. Ashley Capps of AC Entertainment, which co-produces the event, said they are part of the long-term plan.
"We own the property, so we plan to be here for a long time," he said.
Also added was a large screen area that serves as an art piece, in addition to providing sun cover. The screens are made of nylon and the area looks like a gathering of very large kites flying together.
AC Entertainment and Superfly Presents bought the farm in Manchester in 2007 and since have added electricity and gravel roads. This year, Bermuda grass was planted in key areas to provide comfortable places to sit and walk, but also to help keep down the dust.
"Last year the dust was bad," Capps said. "We've also looked at other ways of keeping it down with things like spraying down the roads."
Bonnaroo made headlines across the region when it opened 11 years ago because of the massive traffic jam it caused on Interstate 24. In years since, festival and state officials have worked on better plans, p and Capps said things ran better than ever this year.
"We opened the gates earlier on Wednesday and that helped," he said.
The first gate opened at 3 p.m. CDT and while Capps said campers are not allowed inside the main Centeroo area until Thursday, the site is staffed for people to arrive on Wednesday.
Craddock, 18, a recent Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences graduate, and Thul, a sophomore at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, said they were surprised at how easy getting into Bonnaroo was.
And how big everything is.
"It's huge," Craddock said. "I didn't expect that."
And there also has been some excitement.
"I did get punched in the face at the Big Gigantic show," Craddock said. "The guy was just flailing away. I didn't even realize it at first.
"It's been a lot of fun, though."
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 ...