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Organizers: Bonnaroo a brand to be around for ‘decades’

Posted on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 7:55 am


Approaching its 12th year, the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival has outlived what many thought it would be.

Not only has the festival not faded over the years or skipped town after one year to mimic Itchycoo Park like some cynics believed, but it has grown to include more activities and attractions and, according to festival co-founder Rick Farman with Superfly Presents, the festival is now a brand that will be around for “decades.”

The infamous Bonnaroo arch is pictured here at night during the 2011 festival. -Bonnaroo photo by Adam Macchia

“We feel like this is an event and a brand that is going to be around for decades,” Farman said in a conference call with Bonnaroo media last week. “We look at it like we’re, you know, kind of maybe becoming a teenager now. You know, we’re 12 years old.”

Farman went on to compare Bonnaroo to European festivals such as Glastonburys, which has been around for 42 years, and the Roskilide Festival, which began in 1971 and is still continuing strong in Denmark.

“They’ve been going on for 30, 40, 50 years and have really become, you know, iconic and part of the overall culture of, you know, the countries they’re situated in,” explained Farman, who promotes the festival along with co-founder Ashley Capps and AC Entertainment.

“And I think that’s what we aspire to be,” added Farman. “I think we’re well on our way being 12 years in. But we’ve still got a lot of growing up to do.

Since its inception in 2002, festival organizers have sent clear signals that they don’t plan to go anywhere. They invested $8.68 million to purchase the land the festival is held on in 2007, officially dubbing it Great Stage Park, and have since dug for well water and installed electricity. In 2010 organizers constructed a massive, permanent stage to host the festival’s headliners and biggest acts, cutting the need to build and tear one down every year.

And the ideas for growth keep coming. This year the festival is offering bus and day packages from Nashville.

“It’s all around trying to get people who, you know, live in Tennessee who might not ordinarily come check out Bonnaroo to have an opportunity to do so,” explained Farman, adding that the program aims to draw hundreds and not thousands more to the festival.

“This year we are focusing on Nashville and offering sort of a combined package where you buy a ticket and you have a shuttle to get down to the festival and take you back.”

Bonnaroo has historically been known as a camping festival and daily passes haven’t been sold. But despite the changes Farman says it won’t be noticeable.

“I don’t think we’re worried about it really changing the, you know, flavor of Bonnaroo,” he said.

He said the idea isn’t for the festival to start selling daily tickets and added that the package with the shuttle has to be purchased together.

“We’re not looking to make this sort of an overall program. That’s not [in the] discussion to just be selling day tickets.”

Economic impact continues to grow


A report released last month by Greyhill Advisors claims the festival has a $50 million impact on the Tennessee economy. The study claims the festival generates $36 million in direct expenditures.

Locally, Coffee County government picked up approximately $600,000 in extra sales-tax revenue from festival-goers last June and an additional $255,300 from ticket sales. Figure in an additional $42,000 collected from temporary permits issued and the county government benefits to the tune of approximately $900,000 from the festival.

“When you take those three figures and add them together, that’s almost a dime in property tax,” said Coffee County Mayor David Pennington. “The property tax would have to go up to cover the difference if [Bonnaroo wasn’t here.]”

The June boon in sales tax is obvious. According to the Tennessee Department of Revenue, local sales tax alone generates $2,017,790.58 across the county – including Manchester in Tullahoma. That number is $1,562,690 in July and 1,416,263 in May – the two months surrounding the festival.

“Bonnaroo’s impact is continuing to grow in Coffee County and across [the state],” added Pennington.

The 12th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival will be held June 13-16. Tickets are available online at

“The show is selling very well,” said Farman. “We’re heading to a sellout soon.”

Last year the festival sold approximately 76,766 of its allotted 80,000 tickets, according to the $3 donation-per-ticket amount given to the county government. 

-Josh Peterson can be reached by email at