MANCHESTER, Tenn. - Custom-blown glass sculpture vendor Tara Katola took it all in stride as she worked downwind of another dust-up Saturday afternoon at the Bonnaroo 2011 Music and Arts Festival.
On the third day of 90-plus-degree temps and no rain, with 80,000 people shuffling from one outdoor performance to the next, bald spots were showing throughout the 700-acre site in Coffee County.
And as another performance wrapped up at the nearby This Tent, the exodus of hundreds of concert attendees kicked up the dust again like a cattle stampede.
Katola - who has worked the festival for years, through bouts of rain, mud and typical Tennessee summer heat - calmly continued to tend to her wares with a cloth, wiping each piece clean.
"The dust is as never-ending as the fun," she said. "Even though the Earth is harsh, there's still a good time to be had by all."
Wars are fought in more comfortable weather. Yet Bonnaroo fans seem oblivious to it all; a testament to the sold-out event, now celebrating its 10th year.
When the heat rises, they strip down to shorts or bikinis and, in some cases, less than bikinis. When the wind kicks up and the dust blows, they pull bandanas - a standard-issue item here - over their mouths and noses like bandits.
The performances contribute as much as anything to keeping the crowds charged.
Italian pop star Jovanotti was seemingly overdressed for the heat as he took the stage at the Other Tent on Saturday afternoon, in a sweat-soaked sports jacket, slacks, button-down shirt and a tie clinging to his frame. Yet he moved twice as much as anyone else at the show, imitating Michael Jackson dance moves and wandering between English and Italian through a frantic cover of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'."
"I don't think he's taken a breath yet," said Prentice Truett of Knoxville, who stood near the back of the show with a friend. "We're just bouncing around. We stopped 'cuz we like what we heard. I like his funk."
Other attendees, including Sergio Hoffman and Joe Bernstein of Washington, D.C., laid low at their campsite until the height of the day's heat broke, knowing that many of the headliners, like rapper Lil Wayne, don't take the stage until after midnight anyway.
With some 150 music, comedy and other acts performing through Sunday, some shows run until 4 a.m.
Veterans of eight Bonnaroos now, John and Bridget Thomas, of Trinity, Ala., waited out the worst of Saturday afternoon's heat with their 4-year-old daughter, Cassidy, on blankets under the canopy of an oversized umbrella with a small, electric fan.
"After going to so many, this has been the best one as far as knowing what to do bring, what to do," said John Thomas, pointing out the umbrella. "This thing has saved our hide."
He noted the increased presence of corporate sponsorship, along with an increase in trash left on the ground.
"It used to be everybody picked up after themselves," he said of previous festivals, before giving his comments a bit of Bonnaroo perspective.
"There's nothing that could make it bad. You're on vacation. You just wake up and think of what bands you wanna go see play."
Hayes Hickman may be reached at 865-342-6323.
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!