Action on the fabled Bonnaroo grounds has never soared higher than this past weekend.
Among aerial activities for the inaugural Exit 111 Festival in Manchester were a Paranormal Cirque and motocross exhibition. That entertainment blended with a three-day diet of metal bands and Southern rockers to create a lineup that attracted fans from across the nation.
“We had people represented from all over the states and even had a couple come in from Ireland,” said Tim Sweetwood, director of the Exit 111 Festival. “The festival had approximately 20,000 people per day. It was a good first year.”
The Paranormal Cirque had a morbid bent with visitors trudging through a ghoul-filled tunnel of darkness to make their way to the indoor stadium. The show was highlighted by Olympic-gymnast-level acrobatics, a deranged clown routine, and a daredevil who balanced atop a cylinder as it rotated high above ground like a Ferris wheel.
There was no extra charge to attend Paranormal Cirque, but festival-goers had to obtain tickets due to limited seating. Sweetwood said the show was extremely popular and performed to packed houses all weekend.
If the circus didn’t provide enough high-flying stunts, motocross jumps were performed several times each day. Riders put fear in their back pocket as they soared from ramp to ramp, reaching heights around 25 feet. During some tricks, one hand was all that connected riders to their dirt bikes.
And of course there was music -- three stages worth. Lynyrd Skynyd received top billing Friday night, Def Leppard on Saturday, and Guns N’ Roses on Sunday.
“The headliners were among everyone’s favorite and we had some great crowds and sets from Slayer, ZZ Top, Seether, and more,” said Sweetwood.
In addition to its Friday night show on the Rise Above stage, Seether played two acoustic shows inside a small tent for an intimate setting.
It was billed as the final Tennessee show for Slayer, which brought a large fan base. People could be heard yelling “Slayer!” throughout the three-day event.
Said Sweetwood in closing, “We were extremely pleased with everyone that came to the festival in year one and the spirit and energy created.”