By Max Smith and Daniel Jansouzian
Sidelines News Editors
The city of Manchester can expect its population to swell by a factor of eight this weekend as the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival returns to the Coffee County city for its 13th year.
Eighty-thousand music fans are expected to converge from around the world on the 700 acre farm off Interstate-24, and state law enforcement is gearing up to handle the massive boom in traffic.
“The main goal is to keep through traffic moving smoothly on I-24 while getting festival-goers safely into and out of the festival site,” TDOT Commissioner John Schroer said.
The farm, a major portion of which is owned by the festival’s co-producers Superfly Entertainment, is the jurisdiction of Coffee County, but law enforcement at the city, county, and state levels, as well as Bonnaroo’s own security team, work together to police the event.
For the duration of the festival, the speed limit on I-24 between mile marker 104.6 and 129.4 will be reduced to 55 mph.
Festival traffic will be directed into the right lane and shoulder of I-24. Emergency vehicles have been directed to use low-volume country roads, and news releases have been sent to trucking companies in efforts to reduce the volume of cars wherever possible.
“We hope our increased visibility on I-24 will have an impact on driver behavior and help reduce serious injury and fatal crashes on this major traffic corridor during the Bonnaroo festivities,” THP Colonel Tracy Trott said.
Once the gates open, state troopers will be on the job 24 hours a day, patrolling from the ground and air.
Troopers logged nearly 6,000 man-hours during last year’s Bonnaroo weekend, according to a press release by the Tennessee Department of Safety. They worked 17 traffic crashes, 13 of which resulted in property damage, and three in injury. There was one fatal crash.
The Manchester Police Department has been coordinating with the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department for the past three to five months, said Manchester chief of Police Mark Yother.
“Once we get people in, we go on patrol,” Yother said.
Police will be on the grounds at all times, performing random car searches.
They also plan to meet several times after the festival concludes to review what worked and what didn’t.
Yother has a staff of 34, half of whom will be on the clock at all times. In a typical shift, six officers are on duty at one time. Officers may work for shifts of over 14 hours.
Before the festival opens its gates, police presence will be high at the nearby Walmart, a popular meeting place.
“Anything that curbs drug use is a good thing” Yother said. “So far we’ve had a good run with Bonnaroo. Not many incidents to speak of.”
For information about any delays, call 511, visit the TDOT website at tn.gov/tdot, follow TDOT on twitter at @TN511, or download the TDOT SmartWay app.
Follow us on Twitter at @Sidelines_News and @MTSUSidelines for Bonnaroo updates. Watch videos of the festival on our Instagram at @sidelines_ae and @mtsusidelines.