I think parents of young teenage children are faced with an interesting dilemma. This is true for parents across the country but I think it’s especially true in Manchester because of the big June party. Bonnaroo.
If your kid is 13, 14, 15 … even 16 … do you let them go? Do you let them go with their friends or only with you? Perhaps not at all? I’ve seen plenty around that age out there – so some people obviously say it is OK.
I think it’s interesting given the nature of the beast. So many organizations – ball teams from high school on down to slow-pitch softball, churches and civic organizations rely on the festival to shoulder the load of their fundraising efforts. Even without a love for music or a desire to just get stoned, parents and family members are likely to have ties to the festival in one way or another. I think over time people tend to let their guard down: “It’s just Bonnaroo. Harmless. Let ’em go.”
I’m not passing off judgment at all and I’m not even sure what decision I would make when mine are that old. But allow me to let you in on my first trip to Bonnaroo at 16 years old.
I, along with some friends, was working a booth for the recreation center. While I was cooking chicken, one of my friends, who shall remane nameless, found the painting booth. Then he showed me. Then there was no more cooked chicken. I’m not sure I ever went back. Topless women for as far as the eye could see. Being painted. As I’ve aged those displays are still noticeable but not like they were at 16 when it might as well have been live porn.
I’ve heard the rumor that everyone out there is just walking around stark naked. That isn’t true. In fact, not close. But I did find my share of topless women that year and being the innocent child that I was the smell of marijuana was new to me but I learned it real fast. I am pretty sure I picked up a contact high. I nearly stepped on a couple of folks having sex and learned the water fountain was clothing optional.
Just in case you weren’t sure what happens out there- that’s my first year rundown.
Look, for the most part these people are harmless, relaxed, here to smoke dope (which is starting to become legal in a few states, I remind you) and get away from life. They aren’t violent and generally aren’t pushy in a crowd. But that other stuff I mentioned is real.
That makes for an interesting decision. Do you let your kids go and risk them seeing it all and smoking some of it all, too? After all, the experience would be one of diversity and culture, which I think is healthy for today’s young ‘ens.
Or do you keep them at home and hear “but Holly got to go” 25 times and be called hypocritical because you go out there and sell “beverages” for the local ball team.
That’s your choice. Good luck.
– Josh Peterson is the editor of the Manchester Times. He has won TPA awards for his writing and photography. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 931-728-7577 ext. 105. Follow him on Twitter @joshpeterson29