We had the chance to gather some insight on festival camping from a true expert himself. Chris Alexander, better known as, “Bonnaroo Chris” gave us all the inside secrets to the Bonnaroo festival located in Manchester, Tennessee. Bonnaroo is one of the largest music and arts festivals in the United States, hosting around 140,000 people last year. From its wide variety of camping options and easy access to amenities, the popularity within the music festival community soars. The four-day experience beginning on June 11th and ending on the 14th features artists like Billy Joel, Mumford & Sons, and Kendrik Lamar. The many characters, styles, and interests bring a sense of community and camaraderie that keeps Chris coming back each year.
50 Campfires: What makes the Bonnaroo Festival so special to you?
Bonnaroo Chris: I’ve been attending the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival since 2007 and what keeps me coming back, aside from the amazing music acts, is the camaraderie among the people that attend. Everyone is so nice, polite and selfless — to the point where I begin to wish society was more like Bonnaroo. There are people of all ages, sizes, and religions and I have yet to see a single fight. Not to mention I meet people from all over the world, like Australia, Israel, Germany and Canada. Those Canadians are a wild bunch.
50CF: What is the most interesting thing you have seen over the years attending Bonnaroo?
BC: I don’t know that I can qualify one thing as ‘the most interesting thing’ I’ve seen at Bonnaroo. There has been so many interesting things! I’ve seen legendary performances by the likes of Jack White, Robert Plant, BB King, Stevie Wonder, The Police … and the list goes on and on. The Mission Icefly event that took place in 2011 and thousands of blue blinking lights fell from the sky was pretty surreal. One day, standing under a tent waiting for a show, someone in the middle of the crowd found a wallet on the ground. That wallet was passed, hand over hand, by hundreds of people to the security team up front. Then, there are naked people and drunk people and people in costume – all of whom are so weird and lovely. Every festival brings new and interesting sights.
50CF: Do you get a lot of people trying to search and find you at the festival? If so, what usually happens when they find you?
BC: Years ago, I started bringing custom Bonnaroo-themed stickers that I gave away to fans that found me. Sort of like a live action ‘Where’s Waldo?’ at the festival. It started slowly and has grown to the point where I now have thousands of people actively searching for me. They post photos of me on social media and paint my name in graffiti on the festival walls. I posted my location to Twitter one day in 2014 and almost immediately, twenty or so people came out of the crowd to get a sticker. I just happened to be standing next a random guy who was affiliated with the festival. He walked over afterwards and said, “Ok, you are really popular and I need to ask … who are you?”
50CF: How will you know when it’s time to stop attending Bonnaroo?
BC: I’ll stop going to Bonnaroo when it stops being a wonderful experience. I’m have a great time meeting people, seeing amazing music acts and eating delicious food trucks treats. As of right now, there is no end in sight. 😀
50CF: What advice would you give to a first time music festival camper?
BC: Bring an open mind and a big heart to Bonnaroo. Bring shade for your campsite, hydrate as much as possible and go do as much as you possibly can. It’s only four days and there is so much to do and see! For more indepth information, read my blog: BonnarooChris.com!
50CF: When do you start preparation for Bonnaroo?
BC: I start preparing for Bonnaroo early. I secure my time off from work in January. By April, I have friends locked in and by May most of the details are complete. Every year, it feels like I start earlier and earlier. But it’s never too early to be well prepared!
50CF: If you could only bring 10 things to the festival what would be the most important?
BC: Not necessarily in this order but it’s everything you need:
- 1) Shade
- 4) A vehicle that can hold all necessary gear.
- 5) Good beer in a can. NO GLASS!
- 6) A floppy hat, long sleeve shirts and sunblock
- 7) Cash for things like showers and spicy pie
- 8) A buddy
- 9) A comfortable pair of shoes
- 10) A positive attitude.
50CF: Do you have a list of 5 or 10 secrets to making Bonnaroo the best time of your life? Give us your expertise.
BC: – I’m always over ambitious about the number of acts I plan to see. Now, I plan around the acts I absolutely can’t miss. Anything I manage to see above that is great but I’m not going to make it too hard for myself.
– I like participating in events like the parades, the Inforoo Brunch, the Community Feast, the 5K, the Roo Parachute or the waterfall excursion. Look online to find these events and try to get to one or two. There is so much more to do than just going to shows!
– It took me three years before finally trying the Comedy Tent or Cinema Tent. They have great acts and each structure has air conditioning so it’s worth the wait.
– VIP is expensive but worth every damn penny. Alternatively, volunteering at the festival is an excellent way to save money and still get great access.
– I go into Centeroo each day with everything I’ll need so I won’t have to back to my campsite until I’m ready to go to bed. It’s a fine line between traveling light and being prepared and it’s a different method for everyone. For me, it’s about maximizing my experience at Bonnaroo. It’s only four days and I don’t want to miss out!
50CF: I saw that you are a supporter of ShelterBox, tell me a little bit about why you chose to be involved in that charity?
BC: ShelterBox is a global disaster relief charity that provides emergency shelter and supplies to survivors of natural disasters and humanitarian crisis. They have four starts from Charity Navigator and a gold rating from Guidestar, which means they are fiscally responsible with donor dollars. I started volunteering with ShelterBox in 2013 and the more I learned about the organization, the more I appreciated it. I learned that organization is volunteer driven — from the people like me who do fund raising and outreach, to the emergency responders who go to places like Nepal and Syria to deliver the aid — all of them are volunteers. And each volunteer I meet is more generous and selfless than the next.
To be able to use my time at Bonnaroo to spread the word about ShelterBox makes my experience all the more meaningful. We get such a positive reaction from everyone at the festival. It’s fun for a good cause!
SEE YOU AT BONNAROO 2015!