Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bonnaroo: It's early Saturday and all appears well

It is hard to believe it has been seven years since the first Bonnaroo festival. When Manchester folks first heard this festival was coming, most of us did not understand what a big deal this is.

However, we quickly got educated because cars clogged every major road heading into our town for days. I remember trying to drive home from Nashville the first day the traffic crunch hit.

Fortunately, I had been tipped off about the problems, so I had an opportunity to come up with an alternate travel plan. I drove many country roads that day and felt fortunate that it only took me two extra hours to get home.

Thousands of people spent the night in their cars as the throng of fans slowly got into the festival site.

Since then, event organizers and our local officials have done a great job managing this event so that the impact on Coffee County residents is minimal.

Even after all this time, I know many still have reservations about having this here. Drugs are a constant issue at events like this, and tragically, there have been deaths in the past.

However, we have gotten off a lot easier when compared to other events.

The Woodstock 1999 festival probably takes the prize for catastrophic music events in the last decade or so. Everything that could go wrong happened there.

The weather did not cooperate because extreme heat plagued the festival throughout. This compounded the plight of the attendees who did not bring sufficient food or water. Vendors sold single-servings of pizza for $12, and 20-ounce bottles of soft drinks and water for $4 each.

Blazing hot weather and price gouging are often a volatile mix. Throw in toilets that did not work, long lines to water fountains, and other inconveniences and violence was inevitable. That happened during the weekend as looting and other criminal behavior took place.

According to published reports, at least four rapes occurred, and law enforcement personnel were able to arrest several through the use of video footage.The irony is that this festival was held to pay tribute to the original Woodstock festival held in 1969. People of that generation romanticize that event by saying it was about peace and love.

I am a bit cynical about that, but at least it was not the rip-off the one 30 years later was. If the original was about peace and love, then the 1999 one was about commerce at any cost. I think that says a lot about how our country has changed in just a few decades.

Despite the problems of Woodstock 1999, perhaps the single most tragic event that happened at an American rock concert occurred in 1979.

The English band The Who played a concert in Cincinnati. It was not part of a festival, but it was a tragedy of immense proportions.

Eleven fans were trampled to death as people stampeded into the concert hall to get good seats. Most of the seats at the show fell under the category of 'festival seating' or 'general admission.'

In other words, there were few reserved seats, so the earlier a person could get into the concert hall the better. Not enough doors were opened as the crowd surged in, and people got crushed.

Fortunately, nothing like that has happened at Bonnaroo, and we should pray that it never will. Let's hope for a safe weekend.

With so many new faces in town, Manchester citizens can greatly assist this event by helping people when necessary.

And be nice, for heaven's sake.

1 comment:

Chris said...

As of Sunday afternoon, I am unaware of any major incidents at Bonnaroo.

Just one word of caution: I drove past the event site about an hour ago, and a lot of people are already leaving. If you intend on driving on I-24 near Manchester anytime soon, be aware that you may hit a ton of traffic.