During Bonnaroo weekend, as 80,000 music fans travel from all corners of the nation to Manchester, Coffee County plays host to the most lucrative and well-respected music festival in the country. Along with putting Manchester on the musical map, Bonnaroo also serves as a stimulant to the rural town’s economy?at a tune of around $14 million, according to a 2005 survey conducted by Middle Tennessee State’s Business and Economic Research Center.
With the sudden and massive influx of people (Manchester’s population the rest of the year is slightly above 9,000), local business owners have learned to prepare for Bonnaroo, and most are barely disrupted by the sudden swarm of festival-goers.
“Everybody in town’s been busier this week, and we’ve been busier than normal,” a Walgreen’s Pharmacy store manager said on Saturday. She said that the most popular items were toiletries (such as toothpaste and toilet paper), lawn chairs, grills and propane tanks, Gatorade, insect repellent and sunscreen. The store did not run out of many items, she added.
“Everybody’s been friendly,” she said of the Bonnaroo attendees.
“We see our fair share of Bonnarooies,” Advance Auto Parts assistant manager Jon Schoeneck said. He said that general tune-up items, such as belts and oil, were the most popular items during Bonnaroo weekend.
At Manchester Liquors, vodka and cocktail mixes were the most popular weapons of choice for Roonies, as Bonnaroo attendees are popularly known.
“They wiped us out of that stuff,” store manager Reffer (ree fur) Meadows said. On the Saturday of Bonnaroo, Meadows did not have enough backstock to fill the numerous empty shelves in his liquor store. Tonic water was also a hot item, he added.
“They’re a good bunch of people,” he said.
Bonnaroo weekend also turns a number of local residents into part-time entrepreneurs. Many residents of Bushy Branch Road, where the festival grounds are located, charge a pretty penny for parking and hot showers. At the Citgo on McMinville Highway, the closest gas station to the festival grounds, a man in a large Ford F-150 was offering “Redneck Hayrides,” according to the cardboard sign taped to the side of his truck.
Festival organizers have also given a bit back to the town that has been generous enough to host Bonnaroo for five years now. “Welcome to Manchester,” reads a wooden sign on McMinville Highway about 400 yards away from the entrance to the festival grounds. “Donated by Bonnaroo,” is engraved across the bottom of the sign.