How a Small Town Absorbs 80,000 Concertgoers

Every summer, tiny Manchester, Tennessee, becomes a metropolis of rockers and concertgoers as the Bonnaroo music festival comes to a nearby farm. This piece from <em>Governing</em> looks at how the town adapts to the surge.
July 29, 2011, 7am PDT | Nate Berg
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"All that can be more than a little overwhelming for the small town of Manchester, a sleepy burg of about 10,000 people, about 65 miles southeast of Nashville. When Bonnaroo's not around, Manchester has the lazy feel of Anytown, U.S.A., with a placid little courthouse square at one end of the main drag and a string of fast-food chains out by the interstate. Hosting a large-scale event is a challenge for any city, but it's particularly daunting when a festival's arrival means a tenfold increase in the local population. Handling the onslaught of traffic, crime and health needs of that many people is an art form for local officials. The event this June marked the concert's 10th anniversary, and officials say the past decade has been an extended course in crowd control.

'Bonnaroo is a lot of work,' says Manchester Mayor Betty Superstein. 'But it's a lot of fun. And the community really has kind of embraced it.'"

The event boosts the local economy by about $20 million a year.

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Published on Wednesday, July 27, 2011 in Governing
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