Bringing children to Bonnaroo

Some people bring their children to Bonnaroo. I don't, but that doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't. I'd like to give you my observations and opinions so that you can make an informed decision whether to bring your children or not and how to prepare if you do decide to.

Bonnaroo started offering family camping areas last year in 2007 and are going to have them again this year. The idea is that the campsites are; not too far from Centeroo, access controlled (i.e. not just anyone can wander in), quieter at night and have more family oriented facilities. I've not camped in them or spoken to those who have so I can't say if they meet their goals. From the Bonnaroo website;

For the 2nd year in a row, we will be providing a Family Camping Area on-site. While the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is a place for people of all ages, we feel that providing a special area for parents and their small children will help provide a better festival experience for all. This area will be identified on the maps you will receive as you are processed through the tollbooths. Parking staff will direct you to the specified Family Camping Area once you arrive at the festival. The family camping areas will feature some amenities for young children. These amenities, in addition to specific information regarding restricted access to the area, will be announced closer to the event.
If you want more info, drop them a line at info@bonnaroo.com , they are usually pretty good about getting back to you, but they probably will get swamped as we get closer.

If you are considering bringing your child to Bonnaroo (especially if they are young), your utmost concern must be their safety and wellbeing. It usually is very hot and sunny during June in Tennessee. Plenty of healthy adults who aren't careful wind up in one of the medical tents due to heatstroke and/or dehydration; children are at even greater risk. Make sure:
  • your child stays hydrated. Kids aren't always cognizant of their own fluid balance; it is your responsibility to make sure they drink enough. Electrolytes are important too, I'd give 1 bottle of Pedialyte (if they are young) or Gatorade (for older children) for every 3-4 bottles of water as a lot of salt is lost through sweat. There are free water stations throughout Centeroo and the campsites, use them and bring bottles to fill.
  • your child stays protected from the sun. The sun gets very bright. Keep SPF 50+ on all exposed skin and reapply regularly. If your children are young, bring a wagon like this with a sunshade. If you're not prepared to pull the wagon around, don't bring the kids. Your children should have appropriate clothing and accessories. Bring light colored loose clothes, sunglasses (w/ UV protection) and wide brimmed hats.
  • you don't push your child too much. There is a lot of walking at Bonnaroo, be aware that your child can't walk as far or as fast as you can. Plan on staying at one stage more and not flitting from band to band. Don't drag your child around the place. Your child's wellbeing trumps your need to catch the last 15 minutes of the Weezer set.
  • you are willing to stay sane and sober. I am not going to pass judgment on someone's personal use of alcohol or drugs, but you must have your head on straight enough to look after your child.
People at Bonnaroo are usually respectful and courteous of families. However, you will come across people drinking, consuming drugs (mostly pot) and using profanity. You (and you child) may encounter people who have consumed excessive amounts of drugs and are not behaving well. These people are the exception rather than the norm, but in a crowd of ~80,000 you'll probably run into them.

The shows can get loud. I'd discourage bringing children close to the stages and also suggest hearing protection (for example). A very good idea is ID bracelets with names, any medical concerns and your cell phone number (available from many places). Have a place for your family to meet up if you get separated. Show your children where to go/who to talk to if they get lost. The security personnel inside Centeroo will have a certain colored t-shirt (I don't remember which, it's easy to find out when you're there) with "SECURITY" printed on the back. I'd also suggest to kids that they go to one of the vendors for help if they are lost. Outside of Centeroo there are professional horse mounted patrols that make regular rounds of the campsites. At the beginning of the weekend, point out to your children who to go to if they get lost and encourage them to do so. If you are breastfeeding, you should feel free to nurse anywhere, I doubt anyone will have much of a problem with it ('roo attracts an enlightened crowd, plus there are people running around naked anyways).

If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions, please leave a comment, email me or post at the Inforoo forum (there is a special family message board) .

1 comment:

  1. I am a roo'er and Bonnaroo is actually our family vacation! I have a four year old daughter who LOVES Bonnaroo! The information given is very acurate! The family camp areas are monitored very well and plenty of space. We come from PA so if you traveling far make sure you bring things for your children to do in the car and some toys while your chilling at your campsite. ALWAYS have water on you. My daughter drank and drank and drank but she was never thirsty! Sunscreen...every 1/2 and hour or so...seriously. She was never burnt. Oh and one last thing...take a SERIOUS amount of money because if your children are anything like my daughter- it's 6.00 per person to ride the infamous ferris wheel...We went on ALOT and unfortuately they don't have a child price nor did they give her a discount. ( That is the ONLY bad review I have for Bonnaroo) Otherwise it's a hell of a good time!!! Good luck!