bonnaroo high fives

Thousands of fans will pour into Coffee County this week for the 18th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival at Great Stage Park. According to festival organizers, the event is expected to be a sellout. 

As Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival approaches it’s 18th year in existence, fans from across the world are still showing massive interest in the four-day event that will be held in Manchester this week.

Speaking to the Manchester Rotary Club Thursday, June 6, Jeff Cuellar with AC Entertainment said organizers expect the festival will be a sellout for 2019. The gates to the festival officially open at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, with music beginning Thursday and ending Sunday night, June 16.

“We are on track to sell out,” Cuellar said in response to a question about attendance. “Every sign is pointing to selling out. We are not sold out just yet, but we usually see a ramp up (in ticket sales) in the final days. If everything goes according to plan, we are on track for a sellout. We are crossing our fingers.”

Cuellar could not discuss specific numbers in regard to what a sellout means, but prior year sellouts have indicated attendance of over 80,000 paid  patrons inside the gates.

A sellout crowd indicates the festival remains as healthy and viable as ever, especially considering some concerns that arose after the 2016 event when ticket sales hit an all-time low. That year, the festival sold only 45,000 tickets. But attendance rebounded to approximately 65,000 in 2017 and similar numbers in 2018 before this year returned to max capacity.

No impact of CMA

This year Bonnaroo festival returned to being a week later than the CMA Festival in Nashville, a change that was actually facilitated over seven years ago but is now being revisited.

In 2013 and 2014 the two festival giants produced their events on separate weekends. However, CMA allegedly broke from that agreement by announcing its dates before confirming with Bonnaroo in 2015, bringing both events back to the same weekend for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

However, holding events on the same weekend has little to no impact on attendance, organizers claim. Instead, the biggest challenge is the pull each festival has on necessary resources.

“That’s never been a factor,” Cuellar said in relation to the festival’s competing for attendance. “From bike racks to [portable toilets], to storage containers, with an event the size of CMA, us and tack on Riverbend (in Chattanooga), it pulls on resources.

“We made an agreement several years ago and there were about two years we were off on dates. And that was a five-year deal and they announced dates without consulting with us. This is a revisit of that agreement.”

The first Bonnaroo festival took place in 2002.


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