Roger Merritt's Home Page
Where did Bonnaroo Go?
June 14, 2007
Well, the annual Bonnaroo music festival that takes place near Manchester, TN is underway, again, and I have to drive right through the build-up of it with people driving in from all over the country, converging at the same Interstate overpass that I drive across to go to McMinnville for work. In the first couple years of the festival, the sport of "Roon spotting" (watching a lot of young people dress, and act sort of like hippies) was casual and refreshing, but since about 2005, the traffic has become so efficient that, although slow, everyone stays in their vehicles, and hardly anyone wanders around. How Boring! I hear that a lot of Roons go over to the Wal-Mart for supplies and tailgating for a day or two before Bonnaroo actually opens, but that is too far out of my way. Such is life. The entertainment value of my commute just ain't what it used to be.
Roon Spotting is Not for the Birds
Every year is different, but I find myself enthused once again at the prospect of Roon Spotting. It’s a funny little occupation developed from having the bizarre fortune of driving through Manchester, TN during the buildup and dispersal of the phenomenal Bonnaroo festival. Just think Woodstock and you’re half-way there.
Imagine my surprise today when I passed the parking lot of the Gondola Restaurant in Tullahoma at 7:00 a.m. and there were a lot of cars full of young people, sort of waiting for something, like a signal to proceed patiently towards a campy destination. There is a new twist every year.
Yesterday, just like in 2003, my first Roon spotting was a group of young males from New Hampshire in a Subaru Outback with lots of camping equipment headed south on Hwy. 55 just out of McMinnville. In 2002, almost no-one had discovered Hwy. 55, but in 2003 the traffic was backed up almost to Summitville (that’s no exaggeration). In 2004, the traffic controllers had caught on to eradicating backups and there was almost no backup on 55 North of Manchester. Who knows what it will be like later today?
This morning there was plenty of early Roon traffic and plenty of police officers on hand to direct. They’ve decided to “let them in” a lot earlier than in 2002-2003. In those days they had the idiotic policy of making them wait till noon on Thursday to get in.
The Roon’s are so easy to spot. It’s almost comical. They are all young, wildly idealistic, and have the disheveled look of having traveled half a continent to reach music heaven or nirvana, which ever the case may be. They are a dreamy throwback to all-things similar to flower power, man. It’s just like Life magazine from the sixties.
I’m only a vehicular bystander, and I have no idea what goes on inside of Bonnaroo except for what I read and imagine, but I’d say a lot of these young people are going to remember this experience for the rest of their lives. And with the restraint of a parent, I can only hope they are going to be careful and use their senses to stay out of trouble, and to have as good a time; as wholesome a good time as possible.
Roon Spotting: it’s a strange way to revert to youthfulness, but I think it’s kind of invigorating.
A Strange Phenomenon on the Highland Rim
The strange phenomenon that descends upon Manchester at this time of year seems to be
underway. The normally calm intersection of Hwy. 55 and I-24 is under siege this morning by the
wily and unpredictable species called, the “Roonie.” The Roonie (Bonnaroonicus Interlopicus) is
a youthful, overindulgent member of the late-teen-to-twenty-something family.
Quite a few Roonies were spotted, by this surprised driver, yesterday afternoon as they
began massing a day earlier than expected in the parking lots of gas stations and vacant places
in the vicinity known as “event traffic.”
The Roonies are very easy to spot. They are often in pairs or groups and appear to be in
rough shape from their journey. But not-to-worry, they seem fit enough to endure much
discomfort and possible hardship in order to reach their goal, which is the gathering of
tens-of-thousands of like-minded who love the outdoor rituals of socializing while being quarantined
in a compound of sorts, and being subjected to melodious, sometimes loud and untamed noise,
which to them is like nourishment. There is no denying a Roonie of their cultural
The favorite dress of a Roonie is noted for its preference of the t-shirt. They are
adorned with all kinds of t-shirts, many of which appear to be home-made and scrawled with
unusual texts that are obscure to the untrained eye. The favorite gesture of the Roonie seems to
be the two-fingered peace sign made popular in the 1960s, but since they are made to wait in
long lines in their vehicles, they become bored and make all kinds of waving, dancing, and
excited motions. Some, however, seem to withdraw, relax or are unashamed to sleep in the open.
This morning, this driver, was cautiously aware that more Roonies would certainly be
massing at the location known as “event traffic” and sure enough there were…many more than last
year at this time. But fortunately, we local drivers were able to pass through in a separate
observation lane. The semi-overcast sky is a merciful welcome to the Roonies, for it could have
been sunny and even warmer. It will be interesting to see how the scene unfolds later today as
the Bonnaroon’s alight in full strength upon their destination.