For my last summer home before college, I wanted to do something epic. I wanted to do something I would remember for the rest of my life. My best friend and I sat in her room one day contemplating whatwe should do as ideas flowed through our head. All of a sudden, it hit us. A music festival! After all, it was on the top of both of our bucket lists. After some more thought and research, we decided Bonnaroo would be the perfect festival for us. In our minds, Bonnaroo was not just another festival; it was the opportunity to share our love for music and camp out with thousands of people for four days nonstop. Without hesitation, we bought our tickets, and a few weeks later we were on the road to Manchester, Tennessee. The drive there was extremely long, considering we drove all the way from upstate New York. However, our excitement and anticipation for the weekend was enough to make it go by fast. Numerous vans passed us painted with signs that read “Off to Roo’” and “Bonnaroo Bound!” This took our excitement to the next level. Finally, after listening to the same Spotify playlist about 20 times, we had arrived.
For the rest of the day we jammed out to some of our favorite bands. We sat peacefully in the soft grass and talked to everyone around us, curious about his or her own journey. I remember closing my eyes for a moment as I listened to The Tallest Man on Earth’s soothing melodies; with feelings of bliss and contentment overcome me. I was in my happy place. We didn’t have a care in the world that day (besides the sweltering Tennessee heat).
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEI1dgkayO0 - A clip of the Tallest Man On Earth performing)
The first thing I saw when I entered Centeroo was the Bonnaroo trademark, the arch. Looking up at the huge orange arch, with “Bonnaroo” written on it in massive letters, made everything suddenly become real for me. I felt officially welcomed. Excitement filled the air as people passed through the arch, high-fiving everyone until they were on the other side. I soon learned that it was a tradition to high five everyone in line as you crossed under the arch. I felt a sense of togetherness and genuine kindness, as complete strangers were enthusiastic to give me a simple high five. When we crossed under the arch, the sight of massive stages in every direction blinded me. I felt like a kid in a candy store: enthused by everything around me and unable to contain myself. It was what I imagined Woodstock had been like: chockfull of hippies, music, and happiness. I never wanted to leave this place.
(I took the last picture on my way to the arch)
When we first pulled up to the 700-acre farm known as Bonnaroo, I was overwhelmed with excitement. All I could see were thousands of tents accented with flags of unique designs and sayings. People all around were dancing, smiling, basking in the sun, and strumming guitars, ready to make memories. As we drove deeper into “tent city” we passed by a street filled with vendors. They were selling things like eclectic beaded jewelry, feathered dream catchers, and tie-dyed dresses. I wanted to buy everything. The last thing I saw before we got to our campsite was the food vendors. I probably counted about 10 taco and gyros stands that instantly made my mouth water. We drove a little further to our final destination, Pod 1. This would be our home base for the long weekend and where we would set up our tents. Everyone around us was friendly and eager to help us settle in as soon as we arrived. However, we were fortunate enough to have our guy friends from home set up our tent quickly. After we had set up and unpacked, we changed into flowy outfits, and headed straight into Centeroo (the location of the main stages) to begin our adventure.
That night we were able to maneuver ourselves to the front of one of the main stages, where we anxiously awaited the headliner for the night, Pretty Lights. Pretty Lights was one of my favorite electronic artists at the time and I had watched many videos of his performances in preparation. I knew that his set would be one filled with psychedelic lights and pulsating beats. I couldn’t wait. He finally came on and it was like no other performance I’ve ever seen. I was lost in the lights and sounds projected from the stage; I could feel it throughout my whole body.
(Spotted! Me and my friends in bottom left of this picture from the Pretty Lights crowd!)
I realized it was late, but was not sure of the exact time. I heard a lot of chatter around me and suddenly looked up. I was in amazement as I recognized the sun beginning to peak out of the sky. I was in awe. I had never heard of or seen a performance that ended with a sunrise. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life: witnessing the Tennesee sunrise paint the sky above me with calm beats still playing in the background. It was something that could only happen at a place like Bonnaroo. A place where the positive vibes radiated from the crowd inspires artists to keep going and leave you mind blown. At this moment, I made a date to come back to Bonnaroo the following year to relive and create more unforgettable memories like the one I just made.