June 12-15 • Manchester, TN
June 6-14 • 21st Century Waterfront, Chattanooga, TN
MANCHESTER, Tenn. - Thursday is primarily moving-in day at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and in recent years, more and more fans have shown up early, excited to get inside and check things out.
While there is some music on the small stage beginning at 2:30 p.m., the bigger bands don't start until 4:30 and there aren't any headliners scheduled on the two largest -- What and Which -- stages. But there is plenty to see and do while waiting for the music to begin.
"The people watching is freakin' awesome," said Crystal Wood, 23. She drove up from Orlando, Fla., for her first Bonnaroo with friends Lyndsey Nacole, 23, Carla Rojas, 24, and Chris Robertson, 24, who were also experiencing their first trip to "the farm."
Nacole found a hat she liked.
"I got it because of the sun," she said.
Like thousands of fellow attendees, they got inside Centeroo, the festival's main area, as soon as it opened. They shopped, enjoyed a beer and waited for the music.
Shoppers perused everything from tie-dyed textiles to pottery to henna tattoos. There are also dozens of booths with information on a range of topics, including restoration of the Gulf of Mexico, preservation of the Tennessee River and bone marrow donation.
There is even a pod on site called Nexus of Ceremonies where you can get married, celebrate a birthday or a bat or bar mitzbah.
Hundreds of people, dressed in everything from denim shorts and tank tops to bikinis, found respite from the heat either under a shade tree or under the water spouting from the giant mushroom that is a Bonnaroo landmark.
Regulars noticed some slight tweaks to the site, including the removal of the giant bobble heads that have been a fixture on the site since 2002. They have been replaced by a giant hog-shaped art piece called Hamageddan.
A noticeable improvement was the maturation of the Bermuda grass in the site. Planted two years ago, it handled the large amount of rain that fell in the days leading up to the festival. It did cause problems inside several of the camping areas, leading to delays in getting festivalgoers inside.
The guest camping area was closed for two hours Wednesday night, and campers had to find creative ways to find a dry space.
Robertson said his group got into their campsite around 6:30 a.m.
"There were some puddles and mud this morning, but it's pretty dried up now," he said.
Mud or no mud, veterans like Nick Turner, 32, know the key to enjoying the four-day camping experience is "'chi'bility'. You have to have the ability to chill or you won't enjoy it."
Contact staff writer Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6354.