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Bonnaroo Music festival held the annual legislative tour Friday, briefing legislators at the state and local level on safety protocols for this year’s festival.

Jeff Cuellar, Bonnaroo’s VP of Strategic Partnerships, led the tour.

“You get searched as you’re coming onto the grounds,” he said. “Every single vehicle gets searched…even larger vehicles. We have drug dogs and bomb dogs going around to insure the safety of everything going inside.”

Cuellar said that this year certain incoming traffic will be admitted through a new Powers Lane gate and queued along the long roadway that led from the old temporary Exit 112. He stressed that Exit 112, a temporary exit from Interstate 24 will not be in use this year.

“While we are not using Exit 112 coming off the interstate any more, we’ve built service road off of Powers that will allow us to queue up a mile of traffic,” he said.

COVID protocols

In order to attend the festival this year, festival goers will have to have either a recent negative COVID test or have proof of full vaccination.

“If they did not get a negative COVID test within 72 hours of coming to grounds, we will have rapid testing available,” Cuellar said.

Once vetted, festival goers will receive a health checked wrist band and are considered good to go.

“If we have a positive case, we will have a team in place that will take them back to their vehicle and escort them off the grounds. Then they can go quarantine how they need to quarantine,” Cuellar said.

He said that Bonnaroo’s sister festival Lollapalooz, held July 29-Aug. 1 in Chicago, had similar policies in place. Cuellar said that only 100-200 cases were attributed to the 110,000 person event.

“This is in a city where people were leaving and coming to every day. If they can do it there in downtown Chicago, then we should be able to do it here in a property we can control.”       

Cuellar said that safety is the festival planners’ number one concern, “If we can’t have a safe event then we can’t have fun.”

He said that 12% of Lollapalooza goers reported getting vaccinated so they could attend the festival and 92% were vaccinated, 8% provided negative tests and a small percent were turned away. 

According to Bonnaroo, 85% of the attendees come from outside the state.

Cuellar confirmed that the first responders who man the indoor command center will be tested every day they are in the facility.

“We have an indoor command center…with THP, Coffee County police, Manchester Police special service… because they are inside a room and these are mission critical people, that is exactly what we’re asking. If that goes down its bad news,” Cuellar said.

Entry to open early

This year Bonnaroo is implementing a new daily pass system that required fans to pick a day of arrival when they purchased tickets. This year gates will open on Tuesday rather than the traditional Wednesday afternoon. Cuellar said that most years the majority of festival goers usually arrived late Wednesday and early Thursday.

“We are opening the grounds a day early to try to mitigate some of the traffic we had coming off of (Exit) 112. We are going to try to keep it a sane as possible,” he said.

“This year we know how many people purchase Tuesday (vehicle) passes,” Cuellar said, explaining that the knowledge will aid in planning.

“The trip will be, will they listen?” he said. “We cross our fingers and hope they listen. We have a good fan base.”

Cuellar said that in addition to extensive security, the fan base provides rudimentary self-policing through the Bonnarovian Code in which attendees work to minimize negativity.


John has been with the Manchester Times since May 2011. John has won Tennessee Press Association awards for Best News Photo and placed in numerous other categories. John is a 1994 graduate of Tullahoma High School, a graduate of Motlow State Community College and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Middle Tennessee State University. He lives in Tullahoma, enjoys painting, dancing and exploring the outdoors.

Staff Writer

Download the free Manchester Times mobile app at the app store. John has won Tennessee Press Association awards for Best News Photo and placed in numerous other categories.

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