Long-time Bonnaroo vendors explain the festival’s ever-changing culture, landscape


Photo and story by Victoria Leuang / MTSU Seigenthaler News Service

Bonnaroo celebrated its 17th annual festival this year, and hundreds of vendors have prepared for the humid four-day musical and arts extravaganza. Many vendors have been with Bonnaroo since the beginning, and they’ve noticed the drastic changes every year.

An art vendor, Jeff Kutno, said he has been selling his brother’s artwork that consists of paintings and pencil sketching every year at Bonnaroo.

“This whole show has been changed around a lot,” Kutno said. “There was no such thing as ‘CenterRoo.’”

 Many vendors around Kutno have been around since the start as well, and they see the same faces when they go to other festivals. Kutno says he’s known some of the same vendors for over 20 to 30 years now.

“You know all the vendors,” Kutno said. “It’s kind of like summer camp. There’s a whole subculture of vendors.”

According to Kutno, Bonnaroo has added things that made the festival better even though the number of attendees has dropped.

 “Back then, it was freer as in a person coming in, but it was also disorganized,” Kutno said. “You had Port-a-Jon issues, running water issues, no showers. Where now, there’s showers everywhere, there’s indoor plumbing and things like that.”

Creator of Nomadic State of Mind Sandals Chris Anderson, whose tent has also been around since the beginning of the festival 16 years ago.

“I wanted to do something different, create things that make people happy and be around music,” Anderson said. “It’s been interesting to watch over a couple decades how this (Bonnaroo) changes and how my sandal business changes.”

Anderson has noticed the differences while being here every year. He said there are perks to it, and it has affected his company positively.

“The music has changed dramatically, but it’s cool for a company like mine,” Anderson said. “It brings me a whole collection of people.”

Anderson said being a vendor at Bonnaroo is like having another family because vendors get to hang out for four to six days. Many vendors come and go throughout the years because of the different styles at Bonnaroo now.

“It’s sad to see how some people have to leave every year because of the music changing too much for their product,” Anderson said. “Many of the ‘hippie stuff’ don’t sell like they used to.”

For more Bonnaroo 2018 coverage, click here

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