Tennessee Fest Vows Big Crowds, Better Traffic

One thing organizers hope will be smaller this time around: the traffic jams leading to the site of the event scheduled for Friday (June 13) through Sunday on a rural Tennessee farm.

With the Dead, Neil Young, and Widespread Panic on the bill, the eclectic music festival Bonnaroo has sold more than 80,000 tickets and promises to be even bigger than last year's inaugural concert. One thing organizers hope will be smaller this time around: the traffic jams leading to the site of the event scheduled for Friday (June 13) through Sunday on a rural Tennessee farm.

"We're going to do everything we can to minimize delays," said Ashley Capps, president of Knoxville-based A.C. Entertainment, one of the promoters of the three-day festival.

Fans and critics alike praised last June's festival, which accommodated 70,000 fans for three days with little of the crime that has marred similar events. That success has spawned an offshoot version -- Bonnaroo NE -- which was set for Aug. 8-10 in Riverhead, N.Y., but was axed this morning due to logistical issues.

"We were lucky, and I hope we're as lucky this year," said Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves.

But traffic posed a major problem, clogging Interstate 24 for up to 15 miles as thousands of vehicles tried to get to the 500-acre farm near Manchester, about halfway between Nashville and Chattanooga.

Ticket sales this year sold out ahead of last year's on the strength of a 70-act lineup that also includes the Allman Brothers Band, Nickel Creek, Emmylou Harris, and James Brown.

Planners say lessons learned last year have led to new measures to get fans to the site and other motorists on their way. "In many ways we started working on the traffic plan for this year immediately after last year," Capps said.

The plan designates lanes of I-24 for only non-festival traffic, and trucking companies are also being asked to detour on state roads. A graveled temporary exit will lead directly from the westbound lanes of I-24 to the site, which is just off the highway. But organizers and officials say delays are inevitable when an estimated 40,000 vehicles are trying to get to a farm on a country road.


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