Bonnaroo: The Basics

Written by: Selena DiGiovanni

I lay on a tarp in the midst of a sea of tents. It is midday and I am amongst friends; some old, some very new. We are quiet, listening to music in the distance. It is too hot to talk but we enjoy each others company nevertheless.

A man walks into our unofficial compound and asks, “You guys looking for Molly?”

We politely decline his offer, the others inquire after his milder stock, and when he leaves, we return to our silence.

This is Manchester, Tenn. and this is Bonnaroo, one of the largest up-and-coming music festivals in the world.

Campers enter Centeroo under the Bonnaroo arch

Campers enter Centeroo through the arch. The arch, which changes every year, is an iconic symbol of Bonnaroo.

Started in 2002, Bonnaroo takes place every June on a 530 acre plot of repurposed farmland in the small town of Manchester, Tenn. The festival spans three days, a time in which those who have purchased tickets are invited to camp outdoors, spend time with friends and enjoy good music.

There are a variety of activities which are available for campers at Bonnaroo. One of the best loved activities is the Silent Disco tent. Here, campers are given a set of wireless headphones upon entrance which sync with the DJ’s output. The end result is a tent full of people dancing to music which no one on the outside can hear. There is also the Graffiti Wall, which surrounds Centeroo, the central area of Bonnaroo. Campers are invited to bring spray paint to Bonnaroo with them in order to cover the Graffiti Wall with street art in their down time. There are also a multitude of food and artist stalls, a mushroom fountain, and of course, concerts.

Shows beginning each afternoon and continuing into the wee hours of the morning. These shows take place at several venues all located within Centeroo. The main venues are What Stage, Which Stage, This Tent, That Tent, The Other Tent, and the Comedy Tent. Other smaller venues include the Solar Stage, Lunar Stage, Sonic Stage, and the Cinema Tent.

Past years have featured headliners such as Eminem, Dave Matthews Band, and Radiohead. There have also been lesser known bands such as Futurebird, as well as comedy shows and film screenings . In the past, the lineup has been made widely available long before Bonnaroo takes place, but this year the list of bands performing has been kept under lock and key. Clues in the form of haikus have been scattered across America, increasing the excitement of fans everywhere. The full lineup will be revealed on February 19th, in a “Bonnaroo Lineup Announcement Megathon” hosted by Weird Al Yankovich.

To learn more about Bonnaroo, stay up to date on the latest Bonnaroo news and purchase tickets, go to

There Might Be Bears

Keep all food — and any scented products — well away from your campsite

Thankfully, we don’t need to worry too much about lions and tigers when we take to the mountains and forests to hike or camp. (Well, cougars in some locations, but that seems to be pretty rare). What is not so rare is to encounter a bear! Population sprawl has driven bears into suburban communities and has exposed them to the influence of humans. Namely, human food. Yogi, that pesky cartoon bear, loved those picnic baskets, but you really wouldn’t want to meet up with him face-to-face at your campsite.

Zookeepers at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo recently staged a demonstration with two of the park’s grizzlies to make a point. They set up a mock campsite with typical coolers and tents full of typical camping food, then kicked back to see what would happen. The grizzlies quickly transformed the site into a big bear supermarket. They crushed the coolers and tore apart sleeping bags in search of a hidden granola bar. “They know what they’re looking for,” said Woodland Park’s Julie Hopkins. “They’re following their noses for every good smell they can find.” Wildlife experts say brown bears can remember 10 years later where they found a good food source.

Bear-resistant containers are smooth and rounding to prevent bears from gripping

The lesson learned here is to always, always keep food well away from your campsite’s sleeping area, at least 100 feet away. And while hanging food in trees is one method to keep the bears away, some parks, such as Yellowstone National Park, don’t allow it. Bear-resistant containers have proven to be a far better deterrent. Made from a tough ABS polymer with smooth sides and rounded edges, bears have nothing to grip onto. Lids are secured with stainless steel locks that are easy for humans to open with a coin or a screwdriver, but are difficult for bears to open. Anything with a scent should be stowed in the canister, and this includes sunscreen, soap, mosquito repellent, lip balm, deodorant, medications, toothpaste, and feminine products — along with food, of course. Keep the canisters locked, placed on a level surface 100 feet or more from the campsite, away from cliffs or water sources so a bear can’t knock it down a hill or roll it into the water. Additionally, don’t attach a rope as bears could easily carry it away. Some people place pots and pans on top of the canister to sound an alarm if a bear disturbs the container. For hikers, carry the canister in your pack and replace food that you eat with other items to conserve space.

Wild bears have a natural fear of humans and will attempt to avoid people, but they can become aggressive once they’ve had a taste of human food. In addition to securing your food, are some helpful tips for avoiding bears on your next hiking or camping trip.

  • Make plenty of noise so you don’t surprise bears that may be on your path. (Attach a bell to your backpack).
  • Try to travel with the wind at your back. Bears can smell your scent from miles away if the wind is in the right direction.
  • Some experts say that dogs can provoke a bear attack. It may be advisable to not bring your dog along when travelling in bear country.
  • Bears are more active at dawn and sunset from May to October.
  • Bear repellent spray is a pressurized cayenne pepper that can be projected up to 8 meters, causing burning and tearing of the eyes and inflammation of the lungs and throat. The effects of the bear spray last up to an hour but do not cause lasting damage. (Carry in an easily accessible holster). Use bear spray only if the bear charges to within a few meters.

Bottom line? Bears are not Yogi or Smokey. They are large, fast, and potentially vicious wild animals, and when we encroach into their habitat, common sense and pre-planning must prevail. Lions and tigers? Not so much. But bears? Oh my.