Today, when the lineup for this summer’s Bonnaroo music festival was announced, I have to admit that I got pretty excited. Seeing Eminem, Girl Talk and Loretta Lynn at the same event would definitely be my idea of a good time.
I haven’t been to Bonnaroo in the past several years for a variety of reasons, but this year’s roster of acts is so exceptional that I just may be lured back to Manchester after my temporary Bonnaroo retirement. Because I live in Knoxville, TN, home of AC Entertainment, Bonnaroo is sort of like a semi-religious pilgrimage every year for a great many of my friends and acquaintances. In fact, Knoxville media covers Bonnaroo every year as if it were our own event, even though the actual concert venue is in Manchester, TN, about 2 hours west of us. Knoxvillians’ enthusiasm and boosterism for Bonnaroo comes from the fact that Ashley Capps, the hometown hero behind AC Entertainment, co-founded Bonnaroo. Ashley continues to play a leading role (many would say the leading role) in planning and executing the festival each year, and he’s been great about giving many up and coming Knoxville acts terrific exposure by bringing them in to play Bonnaroo’s tent stages. In addition to being arguably the most prominent concert promoter working today, Ashley is also a really good guy.
Given my local ties to Bonnaroo, along with the fact that I am a music fan, it’s not surprising that I have been to Bonnaroo several times. My Bonnaroo experiences have been among the most fun times I’ve ever had. While at the festival, I’ve seen some amazing shows, discovered new bands that have become favorites, met new people and hung out with friends I rarely see. Also while at Bonnaroo, I’ve done the kinds of irresponsibly entertaining things I don’t usually get to do since becoming a parent and a Real Grownup, like staying up all night dancing across the festival site, migrating from one band’s show to another, and ending up inside the silent disco tent. In short, Bonnaroo is really, really fun.
But when someone asked me today whether I thought that she and her husband should consider going this year, I had to tell her no. In fact, my exact words to her were HELL NO. That’s because she will be starting the last trimester of her first pregnancy when Bonnaroo gets underway this June. And while I certainly saw some pregnant women wandering around and even dancing at Bonnaroo, the festival just isn’t something I would recommend doing while pregnant.
Bonnaroo is as well planned and executed as any event featuring 80,000 people and 95-plus degree Tennessee summer heat can be. But between the intense, sometimes overwhelming heat, the periodic torrential downpours, and the dirt and dust that inevitably gets churned up within a day or two of all those people converging on the festival grounds, the physical environment can be challenging for anyone. I know that I certainly couldn’t have managed Bonnaroo during my own pregnancies.
While I’ve been lucky enough to score a campsite in the relatively shady and grassy media area (complete with air conditioned trailer for plugging in a laptop or cellphone) when I’ve attended Bonnaroo in years past, the general camping area doesn’t offer these comforts. Instead, it’s a hot and dusty sea of tens of thousands of people camping in very close quarters. While the amenities in Bonnaroo’s general camping area re pretty good for a giant outdoor music festival, they are not designed to meet the needs of pregnant women. In other words, unless you are okay with standing in an outdoor bathroom with 50 other people for up to 30 minutes while the sun beats down on your giant, achey belly, and as the baby dances on your bladder, doing Bonnaroo while pregnant may not be for you. Also, in the unlikely event that a pregnant festivalgoer needed emergency medical attention specific to a pregnancy complication, it could be hard to get off-site to a hospital quickly enough for comfort.
I hope I have’t rained on anyone’s parade. I love, love, love Bonnaroo, and I think that the organizers do a terrific job making the event as comfortable and convenient for attendees as possible. But it is what it is – a ginormous, outdoor music festival held at a rural location and scheduled in the summertime, when it gets a wee bit hot and humid here in Tennessee.
Bonnaroo is definitely the musical experience of a lifetime, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Everyone should attend at least once. However, if you want my advice on how to have the best time possible, wait to have your amazing Bonnaroo experience until next year or even the year after, when you are no longer knocked up, and the baby is old enough to leave with Grandma while you enjoy a few days of grown-up, child-free revelry.
And be sure to bring sunscreen. Lots of sunscreen.
RELATED: My fellow Knoxvillian and good friend John Cave Osborne blogs today that while he’d love to go to Bonnaroo one of these days, he won’t be doing it with his kids. As a parent and a Bonnaroo fan, I am in 100% agreement with him.
So what do y’all think? Have you ever been to Bonnaroo? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? And what about the idea of attending Bonnaroo while pregnant; would you ever do it? Have you done it? Or have any of you ever attended any other big, multiday, camping music festival while pregnant? Talk about it in the comments below.
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