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Bonnaroo unveils new technology in 10th year
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What’s new about this year’s Bonnaroo?
There’s a giant water slide to keep visitors cool. There’s around-the-clock Internet broadcasting at And there’s a new radio frequency wristband all visitors will wear that’s creating quite a stir.
“We aren’t able to use it to track people,” said Bonnaroo promoter Ashley Capps when asked if individuals could be monitored during their festival stay. “We will be able to use it to track the flow of people on site and the patterns that exist during Bonnaroo.”
Fellow promoter Rick Farman said it’s possible Bonnaroo patrons could use their wristband like a debit card in the future. They could put a certain dollar amount on it at the beginning of the festival and scan it as they purchase items throughout the four-day event.
“There’s a lot we can do to enhance the technology in the future, but right now we want to take baby steps with it,” said Farman.
The wristband technology unlocks a new era of sorts for a music festival that began on a 600-acre farm in Manchester with visitors having to trudge through tall weeds and dodge cow manure as they made their way to see concerts.
Now as Bonnaroo celebrates its 10th year, the hippie-style festival has given way, to some extent, to capitalism. Visitors can no longer sell handmade items from the back of their trunks, and rap music has found a larger presence in the music lineup with performers like Eminem and Lil Wayne.
“The goal remains the same every year when we make the lineup and that’s to create the most awesome festival we can,” said Capps. “We listen to the fans, and we are all music fans ourselves so we have our finger on the pulse of the up-and-coming bands. We always start with a certain vision and we end at a certain place and so far the results speak for themselves.”
Farman attributes the success of Bonnaroo to the fact visitors can get four days of music for $250, the cost of a general admission ticket.
“I think it comes down to the value of a Bonnaroo ticket,” said Farman on the reason the festival is a sell-out again this year.
Visitors travel from all 50 states and some three dozen foreign countries to experience Bonnaroo, according to Capps. The idea of holding year-round events at the site has been discussed for years since Bonnaroo organizers now own the property.
Media spokesman Jeff Cuellar said the site was even discussed as a possibility for the Tennessee State Fair.
“I don’t know if any of you have been following it, but the state fair recently signed a five-year lease to keep it where it is,” said Cuellar. “But after that lease expires, we would like to be in consideration for it.”
Farman says infrastructure improvements are continuing and he wants those to be complete before other events are held throughout the year.
“We want it to be first class,” said Farman. “We’ve thought of doing other events but not another Bonnaroo.”
The Bonnaroo lineup features a variety of new acts along with some historic names in the music industry like Loretta Lynn, Robert Plant and Gregg Allman. My Morning Jacket, Arcade Fire, Primus and Lil Wayne are the headline performers today.
Farman says he believes Bonnaroo – which brings an estimated $15 million into the regional economy in less than a week – has found a permanent home in Manchester.
“We couldn’t imagine doing this anywhere else,” he said.