MANCHESTER, Tenn. — The people on stage aren't the only rock stars at Bonnaroo.
Ask any of the thousands of behind-the-scenes staffers, vendors and others who keep things moving at the 11th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and they'll tell you — IcyRoo is the coolest crew at the 'Roo.
Besides, it says so right on their T-shirts.
IcyRoo keeps the massive music festival from overheating in the constant heat of a Middle Tennessee summer with fresh stocks of ice and bottled water throughout the 700-acre farmland site.
"Son, you can't do without 'em," said security staffer Ricky Hyatt as an IcyRoo team made its latest stop on their near-constant resupply runs that reach the farthest corners of the festival grounds. "These guys are pretty well-loved. Everybody knows these guys."
The crew members deliver about 50 tons of ice over the course of the four-day live music event, estimated IcyRoo co-manager Brian Asplin — not counting the stuff that's sold to festivalgoers.
"We work basically 24 hours a day, making sure everybody has what they need," Asplin said. "We get calls all hours of the day and night."
They also distributed some five or six truckloads of bottled water as well.
Administrative offices, security checkpoints, first aid stations, backstage artist areas — an hour or so riding along with the IcyRoo team is a quick way to see the true breadth of what it takes to host 80,000 music fans in the middle of an old cow pasture for four days.
IcyRoo staffers actually remain on the farm for 16 days, throughout the entire assembly and breakdown work that bookends the show.
And in the true, cooperative spirit of Bonnaroo, all that shoulder rubbing offers a little back scratching, too. Sometimes literally, like the free massage coupons donated from the artist hospitality tent Friday as temps hit 84 degrees.
"We take care of people and they take care of us," said IcyRoo veteran Josh Ater. "Ice is better than cash here."
Then there's the 20 beer breweries represented on-site.
'"Those breweries gotta keep that beer cold," Ater said.
In appreciation, friends keep the IcyRoo team well-supplied for the slightly-infamous backstage staffer parties they host in their little-noticed corner of the farm.
No wonder many of its 35 staffers are volunteers.
Then there's the core team of about a dozen, who, honestly, are kind of overqualified to be slinging ice at concerts.
Asplin, for instance, runs his own record label in Asheville, N.C. Most of the others, too, work in some aspect of the music industry when they aren't taking working vacations on the summer festival circuit.
"We're all here for the music," he said. "We're all huge music lovers. And it's fun to do a job where everybody loves you."
They weren't the only ones in the business of keeping Bonnaroo cool, though.
Klint Griffin, of Aiken, S.C., spends 9 to 10 hours a day manning a garden hose and spraying down guests before they make the climb to the top of Bonnaroo's 40-foot water slide.
He seemed to be much more thorough (and flirtatious) with anyone wearing a bikini.
"Honestly, it's not work," Griffin confessed. "Look at this — I could do this 12, 13 hours a day."
The festival continues through Sunday.
Griffin just hopes they keep the water running.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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