Festivalgoers who had plans to attend Bonnaroo have been devastated by the news that the beloved Tennessee festival is canceled. After the let-down of 2020, music lovers were itching to get back on the grounds and enjoy the eclectic Southern vibe that is Bonnaroo. But Mother Nature had different plans. Hurricane Ida, which hit the Northern Gulf Coast in Louisiana and caused unprecedented damage, has been holding itself together on its long trek Northeast across the Eastern half of the US. When Ida reached Tennessee, it was still a strong Tropical Storm, and dumped enough rain to flood the Bonnaroo site.
Bonnaroo 2021: Canceled
The organizers were heartbroken to break the news to festivalgoers. Per CNN, “‘We are absolutely heartbroken to announce that we must cancel Bonnaroo,’ the festival wrote on its website Tuesday. ‘While this weekend’s weather looks outstanding, currently Centeroo is waterlogged in many areas, the ground is incredibly saturated on our tollbooth paths, and the campgrounds are flooded to the point that … we are unable to drive in or park vehicles safely.'”
It’s a devastating blow to organizers and music lovers alike to have made it through the pandemic cancellation and see the light at the end of the tunnel, only to have Mother Nature tag in and throw another punch. The site that hosts Bonnaroo is in Manchester, Tennessee, on a 700-acre farm. Over the past two weeks, Tennessee has endured intense rain, 5-7″ inches on Middle TN where Manchester sits. Most of that total was dumped just in the past 48 hours as Ida carves her way North and East, headed for the Atlantic via New England.
The festival was supposed to move forward this weekend, with around 80K people who planned to attend.
Other Festivals That Were Canceled in 2021
Bonnaroo, however, is in good company this year. Although it’s not the total shutdown that happened for festivals in 2020, this year has seen a number of popular festivals close. Although, this is the first one to cancel due to a hurricane.
The other festivals which have canceled this year have done so due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the inability to guarantee a safe atmosphere for guests and the communities the festivals call home.
Just last month, the New Orleans Jazz Festival canceled due to a surge of COVID infections in the city. Per USA Today, “‘We now look forward to next spring, when we will present the Festival during its traditional timeframe,’ organizers said in a news release, adding that next year’s dates are April 29-May 8.” It’s an especially bittersweet cancelation to note, due to the fact that NOLA is currently suffering the after-effects of Ida. When Ida hit NOLA, coming ashore first at Port Fourchon, LA, it was a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane, just 7 mph short of being a Category 5. At that strength, the few mph is an academic difference. The storm was devastating, knocking out power to half of Southeast Louisiana, ripping roofs from homes across the state, flooding whole cities, and tearing cities apart like tinder. The low, marshy, below-sea-level toe of Louisiana’s boot where NOLA sits is prone to flooding anyway, managed by a series of levees. Some of those levees held, and others were breached such as in Grand Isle. In NOLA, the entire city lost power after damage to the infrastructure, and it’s uncertain how long it will take to restore. Even if the city gets back on its feet soon, it may not be ready for Jazz Festival 2022.
Coachella was canceled this year, originally planned for April. Burning Man also got the boot this year from organizers, along with Bigsound, Ultra Music Festival, Bunbury, Movement Detroit, Stagecoach, the CMA Fest and countless individual concerts.
There’s Hope: Some Festivals Still Going Forward
But there may be hope. Rolling Loud in Miami was able to kick off without a hitch, and Lollapalooza was a huge hit. Other festivals remain on the Fall list, much to the joy of festivalgoers who are continuously frustrated by the rolling cancellations.
Here are the festivals still going ahead, as of today:
- “Chicago’s Pitchfork Festival: Pitchfork is usually a July event, but was pushed back to September this year. The hope was that more people would get vaccinated and the COVID numbers would decline; but as we know, numbers have done the opposite. However, organizers of Pitchfork are requiring a slew of COVID precautions including vaccination – with proof – or a negative PCR test within 24 hours of presenting to the festival. With these relatively strict preventative measures in place, it’s possible that Pitchfork will go ahead.
- Riot Fest: Another Chicago celebration, Riot Fest faces the same challenges that Pitchfork does. Riot, however, has a less stringent list of precautions and therefore will likely either adjust their prevention measures or be forced to cancel. A good reason for uncertainty for the Chicago festivals rests on the shoulders of Lollapalooza.
- Rockville: This Daytona, Florida, event is planned for mid-November. Because it’s situated in Florida, it’s unlikely that any state mandate will shut it down – Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis has a free-for-all approach to the virus. Florida’s case numbers are showing the effects of this lassez-faire approach and the state is responsible for 1 in 5 new cases every day from around the country. If the festival is to be canceled, it will have to be at the hands of the Rockville organizers. Time will tell if they’ll do it, but this one is pretty 50/50 because they already pushed the festival back to the end of the year from its traditional Spring time slot. It’s clear they’re exercising an abundance of caution so they may well consider the case spikes in Florida too much of a liability to move ahead.
- New York’s Governors Ball: Scheduled for late September, the ball faces an uphill battle. New York City was the first in the nation to require proof of vaccines for indoor spaces. If that measure keeps cases low, it’s possible the event will go ahead as planned. However, NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio has proven that he has no problem encouraging large-scale events to shut down if they’re unsafe, so this one has a high likelihood of canceling.”
Bonnaroo’s cancellation was a major bummer, but maybe there’s one silver lining: it wasn’t canceled due to COVID. However, the festival’s cancellation will forever be a memory that conjures up the devastation left in Ida’s wake.