One of the people who went to Bonnaroo with me this year – her first time going – said near the end of the festival that the crowd was “too young” for her. I have a feeling she’d have a different opinion if she’d bumped into the four ladies who have come to be known as the Bonnagrannies.
Mary Niederhauser has lived near Nashville her entire life and has been friends with Alice Ann “Mimi” Barge, Laddie Neil, and Nancy Lee Pitts for over 50 years. For years, Niederhauser had invited her friends to come stay at her home in Manchester and attend the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, and they finally took her up on the offer three years ago. Armed with canes that fold out into chairs (technology, amiright?), glowsticks, and some glittery thrift store cowboy hats, the Bonnagrannies have pilgrimaged to the farm every year since.
Ranging between the ages of 86 and 88, the badass grannies had their best year ever thanks to handicap wristbands that let them check out sets from the What Stage bleachers. In previous years, they’d post up way at the back of the 90,000-person field and watch from afar. The ladies enjoyed watching What Stage acts Elton John, Jack White, Lionel Richie, and The Avett Brothers from their prime real estate, with Neidhauser adding, “We don’t need earplugs; we can just take our hearing aids out!”
The Bonnagrannies are already looking forward to next year and plan to do their due diligence and research smaller acts appearing in the tent stages. “The founders of Bonnaroo have done great things for the small town of Manchester,” Niederhauser stated. “Throughout our lifetime, we have always supported community events in our small towns, and this is just like a county fair at a large scale.” She said the crowd – young as it was – was kind to them and that they saw “nothing ugly. The kids were so sweet to us, and I can’t wait to return.”
This year, the group brought t-shirts adorned with “#bonnagrannies” made by Lee Pitts’ granddaughters, and the hashtag led to numerous pictures popping up online. Check out a few below, and keep an eye out for the coolest grandmas in Tennessee next year. As Barge’s granddaughter said, “Rock & roll has no expiration date.” Keep on radiating positivity, Bonnagrannies.