Art and Community – What a Music Festival Can Do for You


After a grueling year of school work, attempting and failing in many ways to form a social circle and navigating the new, scary world of adulthood, I was exhausted. I had fallen into the pit of cliche college dilemmas and was floundering somewhere between, “I’ve got this,” and “I’ve never felt more lost.”

Near the end of the 2022 Spring term, I began looking for an escape. I had heard of Bonnaroo many years ago, and as an art lover and a flower child at heart, I had always been drawn to the Woodstock-esque culture that many people associate with the festival.

After seeing the jam-packed lineup with legendary headliners like Stevie Nicks and J. Cole, I decided that Bonnaroo was going to be my first-ever festival.

In approximately three months I worked out the financial and logistical plans that would help me refresh my soul and find my way to hippie heaven. In order to secure a ticket for as cheap as possible, I volunteered with a program called CleanVibes, to pick up litter at the festival site in exchange for free admission and camping.

Gathering camping gear and all of the necessities for a week of bohemian luxury proved to be a little more costly. Including gear, gas and grub I spent around $400–not including the refundable deposit for my ticket.

While driving the eight hours from Savannah to Manchester, TN by myself, I wondered if my preparation and arrangements would get me through a week of camping in a 100-degree dust bowl with tens of thousands of total strangers.

When I arrived at the gate, I was all nerves; “Finally I’m here,” I thought to myself. I had done my best to prepare myself, but I was so far out of my comfort zone and hundreds of miles away from anybody I knew. So, while my car was being searched for glass and paraphernalia, I questioned if I had made a terrible decision.

I quickly set up my campsite and made small talk with the neighbors while sweat seeped from every pore on my body; I nearly passed out after getting the final leg of my canopy tent staked down. I sat in my lawn chair and tried to take it all in, but it was overwhelming.

My mind raced with scenarios and intrusive thoughts about how every little thing could go wrong. Eventually though, I had to give myself a break. I let go of the anxiety that had controlled my every waking moment for the past year.

All of a sudden I was there. Everything I had wished for was right in front of me, and I was ecstatic. I got my bearings and explored the tranquil fields that would be my home for the next seven days. Little did I know how much the farm would feel like home by the end of it all.

It would be impossible to summarize the events of that week in less than a full-length novel, but I can give you one word that I believe epitomizes the experience; serendipity. Without a doubt, the time I spent on the farm was the most magical, miraculous, view-altering week of my life.

Music and art have the power to heal and when you have the opportunity to appreciate it with like-minded individuals, it can feel like an other-worldly experience.

Above all, the people were the best part. I had never in my life felt such a strong presence of community. When I first arrived I was told, “If you need help, all you have to do is ask,” and they meant it.

My neighbors shared their food with me, told me about previous years at the festival and other similar experiences, showed me the ropes to staying cool in the heat and became great friends and allies in “embracing the suck” that can come with car-side camping.

By the end of my seven-day stay at Bonnaroo Farms, I felt like a new person. I wanted to radiate positivity and do what I could to make the world a better place. I had seen what love for other people (and a little bit of Roo magic) could do for the soul.

It’s been two months now since I loaded up my car and drove back to my little apartment in Richmond Hill. Transitioning back to reality was about as nauseating and spiritually challenging as one would expect, and I realized it’s a lot harder to practice peace and love when those around you don’t believe in its existence.

However, I am not discouraged, and although I may stray from the virtues that I believe make the world a better place, I know that forgiving myself and others is the best way to learn and grow into the person I hope to become.

I guess the moral of this whole story is to let go of your expectations about what life is supposed to be and to do what scares you. Many people would turn their noses up at the idea of going on a solo trip or camping without access to a real bathroom (it’s not as bad as you would think), but as soon as we can get over these kinds of hurdles in life, we open up a huge door of possibility for connections and experiences.

As long as I am able, I plan to return to Bonnaroo next year, and I invite everyone reading this to do the same or at the very least check out some cool pictures so you can see what it’s all about. Hopefully, I’ll see some fellow eagles there next year, but until then HAPPY ROO!