Gee, C., & Bales, S. (2012). Manchester Tennessee’s assimilation of the “Bonnarite”: A qualitative analysis of the “other” in local press on Bonnaroo. Studies in Popular Culture, 34(2). Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23416399
Bonnaroo is a modern music festival described as “an event where certain behaviors traditionally considered ‘deviant’ (e.g., rebellious or sexually charged music, recreational drug use, etc.) receive social sanction within the temporal and physical confines of the event space” (p. 73). The authors contrast this space to Manchester, TN, a small, southern town of 10,000 that gets overtaken by Bonnarites (an odd term since the current parlance is to call them Bonnaroovians) each year with 70,000-100,000 tickets sold. Manchester is defined as “typical of the small rural towns found throughout Middle Tennessee: close knit and traditional” (p. 75).
Gee and Bales performed a qualitative and quantitative study of what was printed in local Manchester newspapers about the influx of festival attendees for words that indicated the alien or the accepted. They collected published stories about Bonnaroo and examined perceptions of outsiders through grounded theory and also quantified terminology used for both outsiders and authority figures. After applying open coding, they found that the articles largely referred to the outsiders as a homogenous mass even though diversity was often also mentioned. The outsiders are not referred to as tourists at all; instead they are linked to music: fans, enthusiasts, spectators, etc. (p. 78). (Sidenote: You know the paper is from the South when it never refers to outsiders as tourists but manages to refer to them as “folks” a couple of times).
This study uses the same methodology as a previous study of a Knoxville World Fair with different results. Most notably, the rhetoric around the World Fair made it sound more like the town was being invaded and mentioned the number of “undesireable” attendants, whereas the language surrounding Bonnaroo makes it sound more like Manchester becomes a temporary metropolis instead of being overtaken. The language often de-emphasizes the negative aspects of the festival (drug use is one example given) and instead celebrates the communal aspect. The articles do not emphasize youth but rather the range of ages that attend the festival (Sidenote: The majority of attendees in 2015 were traditional college-aged fans, but one could readily find people of all ages including a group of grannies who attend each year) The concert-attenders are also referred to as being socially responsible.
The overall conclusion of the study is that the locals are glad to welcome the festival attendees as the festival is now a leading industry in the town, even though it lasts a mere four days out of the year. The festival organizers work with the community, and the community extends their hospitality to the festival.
The article will be of use when defining the festival and its place in Manchester as well as perception of the communal aspect of the festival.
**The articles I am finding for my research about festivals mostly pertain to the community aspect as well as analysis of what festival attendees are seeking. I am not finding anything directly written about signage at festivals.