On June twenty first, two thousand two the landscape of our small town would be forever altered.  On this day some of the most electrifying entertainers in the world would lead over 70,000 tourists into our city limits.  This day marked the first official Bonnaroo festival.  As with anything different, this event would create a whirlwind of emotions, commentary, and controversy worthy of a Hollywood plot.

Here we are fifteen years later.  The town is in no temporary or permanent disarray.  No crime wave spike, no violent eruptions, the sky did not fall.  There is of course a minor traffic inconvenience, but no more than when we hear of potential bad weather and rush to the supermarket to stock the cupboard full.  In fact, quite the opposite has happened.  Manchester is now known worldwide and climbing as a Tennessee tourist destination.  Well, there has been one negative and we are going to address the elephant in the room right now.  Have we developed a sense of entitlement?

We have heard the same phrase for years, “What does Bonnaroo do for Manchester?”

·    has offered non-profits the opportunity to earn money with booths at the event
·    pays city and county taxes
·    works with the city to improve our sewer system
·    draws hundreds of workers into our town before and after the event
·    donates money to local nonprofits and government organizations
·    draws over 100,000 tourists into our county
·    saves Coffee County tax payers money
·    and more…

Many of us are unaware that tourism saves each Coffee County tax payer three hundred and thirty three dollars per year.  Bonnaroo is a major contributor to that figure.  That is correct; Bonnaroo is a local business that lowers taxes.  Bonnaroo is a business.  Not a charity, a nonprofit, or a government organization.  As a business it pays taxes, pays for utilities, pays for permits, and meets all codes.

Let’s put this into perspective.  What does Hardees, a national chain, owe us?  Nothing.  Instead, it highlights a strong consumer base in our town for quality and convenient breakfast.  Any other business can learn and capitalize from their success, and any other entrepreneur can see this with their own eyes an opportunity and capitalize on it.  What does J&G, a locally owned business, owe us?  Nothing.  Unless they put ham on your pregnant wife’s pizza and she made it clear to her husband, cheese only.  That’s right Justin.  I am haunted by that night to this day!

The point is, businesses are started out of an individual’s skill and passion for something.  They are started out of a community’s need for something.  They have one purpose, earning a profit.  In this instance, one business operating  to generate a profit, Bonnaroo, is creating ample opportunities for other businesses to make a profit.  So, which are you saying?  “What does Bonnaroo do for Manchester?” or “This is how my business capitalizes on the Bonnaroo business.”

The intentions of this entire spiel are to be an awakening.   It has been fifteen years.  Do we have a collective strategy.  Are we grasping the greater opportunity?  This is a multimillion dollar corporation that invests millions of dollars every year to draw tourists to Manchester and Coffee County.  People from all over the world discuss and relive their time in Manchester every year and IT COSTS US NOTHING!  Are we welcoming enough?  Is the greatest collective effort we can muster donate more, accommodate more, pay more?

In another fifteen years, will our community and you be a part of the potential growth a business like Bonnaroo can activate?  Are we seeing Bonnaroo for what it really is and the possibilities that surround it?
Tourism, Hospitality, and the Chamber of Commerce are working together to form a plan of action.  We cannot do it alone.  We do not have all the answers. We need community leaders and professionals to be a more intricate part of the process.  Anyone who is inspired by this please email us.  Share a story, a rumor, an idea, or simply tell us, “Keep me in the loop.”