MANCHESTER, Tenn. — Bonnaroo on Thursday is a different place than it will be tonight when Paul McCartney headlines, and it's certainly a lot calmer than it will be by Saturday when all of the expected 80,000 fans have arrived and had time to trample the grounds.
On Thursday, the grass still was plush, workers were finishing up putting heads on the giant bobbleheads that are part of the Centeroo landscape, and the hundreds of vendors and volunteers were readying their stations.
The annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, a four-day event in Manchester, draws fans from around the world. The 12th annual festival features more than 100 artists, with the biggest names this year being McCartney, Mumford & Sons, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Wu-Tang Clan and comedians Daniel Tosh and Bob Saget. Also performing will be Weird Al Yankovic, ZZ Top and Billy Idol.
Thursday essentially is move-in day, when fans set up the campsites that will be home until Monday morning. Some come in tents, and some stay in RVs and mobile homes. Once here, they spend the day discovering the vendors selling everything from clothing to food, and checking out the giant waterslide and ferris wheel.
Oole Notgrass, 17, was buying his third commemorative Bonnaroo T-shirt in three years while his friend Anthony Sigismond, 18, was buying for the first time.
Both are from Murfreesboro, Tenn. Sigismond is a UTC student and Notgrass plans to attend UTC in 2014.
"We are here checking everything out," Notgrass said.
Stephanie Patterson, 22, and Molly Hedges, 21, each got a henna tattoo. Patterson said she took "about two seconds" to decide on a large geometric design for her chest and shoulder, while Hedges opted for a sun pattern on her hand.
"We tried to bring enough to eat so we'd have shopping-around money," Hedges said.
The music is being played on almost a dozen stages ranging in size from tiny to the mammoth What Stage, where the headliners play in front of all 80,000 people.
Earlier in the day, Damon McDade, from Indianapolis, posed by the bobbleheads as a friend snapped a picture.
At around 12:30, the all-clear was called over radios and the thousands of people who were waiting in line to get into the main Centeroo area made their way through the gates.
Danford London, 23, from Greenville, Miss., was one of the very first through the checkpoint. A red handlebar mustache barely hid the huge smile on his face, but did momentarily distract from his gold lamé shorts.
"I guess we waited 2 1/2 hours," he said.
He and his girlfriend, Emily Perry, 27, arrived in Manchester around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and they said they had no trouble getting into their campsite.
"We drove right in," she said. "It was very organized."
Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves said the first gate actually was opened at 3 p.m., about five hours earlier than advertised. It's not unusual for the festival to open one or more gates to alleviate backed-up traffic.
"Everything went pretty smoothly," Graves said.
Contact staff writer Barry Courter at 757-6354 or email@example.com.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...