Weaving the Fest Fabric: Roo Bus

Introducing: the Roo Bus. This giant blue hippie bus, being more than just a mode of transportation, embodies the collective energy of a group of friends from around the globe who share an undying love for the festival community. As it moves across the festival grounds, it radiates not just music but a profound sense of camaraderie and goodwill.

Sure, the Roo Bus will ferry festival goers from one place to another, but the community has a motive to spread positivity wherever it’s needed most. At the center of their endeavors is the TOTEM Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting underserved individuals within the music festival setting.

One of the cornerstone initiatives of the TOTEM Foundation is its Mentorship Program. Recognizing how vital it is to community-build within the festival scene, the program pairs festival veterans with newcomers, providing guidance and support not just during festivals but throughout beyond, celebrating life as a festival. This symbiotic relationship fosters a sense of belonging and empowerment among the team, building long lasting relationships and extending the festival space to the outside world.

Roo Bus’ commitment to inclusivity is reflected in their Festival Scholarships. By providing financial assistance to passionate but underserved festival goers, the Foundation opens doors to transformative festival experiences and fosters a sense of ownership and contribution within the larger festival community. The opportunity for disadvantaged youth to partake in job shadow experiences paves the way for meaningful career paths in live music event production, fostering economic empowerment with encouragement from a well rounded community.

The Foundation’s vision also brings an International Exchange Program aimed at promoting cultural diversity and understanding. By inviting musicians from developing countries to partake in festivals and engage in cultural exchange.

To ensure the success and sustainability of its initiatives, the Roo Bus has a diverse Board of Directors and an Advisory Committee comprising passionate festival lovers. Through year-round conversations and collaboration, this team steers the Foundation towards its goals, leveraging their expertise and insights to effect positive change.

Roo Bus relies on a variety of fundraising outlets, including a Patreon program, in-person events, and private donations. These avenues not only generate essential funds but also serve as opportunities for community engagement and collaboration.

As we stand on the precipice of a new era, let us rally behind initiatives like the Roo Bus and the TOTEM Foundation. In a world often marred by division and discord, they serve as beacons of hope, reminding us of the transformative power of community and collective action. Together, let us embrace the spirit of the Roo Bus and strive to create a more inclusive and compassionate world, one festival at a time.

We had the honor of speaking with some of the Roo Bus team, Sharla and Daniel:

How long have you been around and what inspired you to start Roo Bus?


Daniel and I have been going to Bonnaroo since 2013. We parked next to the Roo Bus around 2017. It was actually started by Tammy and Bob WIlson of Manchester.  We made friends with them, and I added Tammy on Facebook after Roo that year. At that time, they were moving to the Gulf Coast. They put the bus on eBay. One bid later, and it now sits at the side of our house. We started bringing it to Roo in 2018.

The Roo Bus is a former jail bus of Coffee County. I still have the key tag that says, “Sheriff Bus.” Tammy and Bob started bringing the bus in 2011, but Tammy has gone to every Roo since it was ItchyCoo. She did all of the decor on the bus, and made the bus a rolling museum of the festival. We have upgraded a few things in the years we’ve owned it. We removed some older bus seats and added a new futon, and added new panels to the walls. We are always adding on to it.

We were inspired to start the community aspect of the Roo Bus because we love the positivity that a giant blue hippie bus brings wherever it goes. While the bus is only a physical element, it means a lot to people. Bonnaroovians from around the world have added their signatures to the outside and inside of the bus. We encourage everyone to stop by and sign it.

What do you hope for the future of festivals on the basis of what Roo Bus strives to accomplish?


This year shows that we can’t count on lineups being good everywhere, the industry goes through waves where one year bookings are great and another year where bookings are just average.  With things like Outeroo activations at Roo and community driven events, it’s showing that the future of programming at festivals aren’t just shows. Bonnaroo has done great to lean into this, but there’s more to be done and hopefully other festivals will follow suit.  In the future, hopefully organizers and community leaders can help organize more events throughout the year too!

Why Bonnaroo? Do you have a presence at other festivals?


Bonnaroo is nearest to us – not only in distance – but in our hearts. It was our first camping festival, and the festival that is truly, “home.” The community aspect at Roo is like nothing we have ever experienced. Bonnaroovians are amazing and kind human beings. We’ve met our closest friends from around the world there, and we talk to them daily. That being said, we have some things in the works – particularly with our nonprofit – for some other festivals. Stay tuned!

What is one of your favorite moments making your presence at a festival? 


When we’re able to support someone else in making something happen. Bonnaroovians are really creative in making their own events happen in the campground, I love it when we can do our part to support people in making an event happen or getting the word out about it.

Can we expect anything in the future for Roo Bus?


In late 2023, we started our new, separate nonprofit, The TOTEM Foundation. TOTEM stands for “The Opportunity to Experience Music.” The nonprofit seeks to help underserved young people in a music festival setting. TOTEM is a 501(c)(3) organization with a board of directors. In 2024, we are providing two scholarships to Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. One will be awarded to an individual who wants to create something for the Roo community, while the second scholarship will go to an individual who seeks a job shadowing experience that may not be available in traditional means. We’ve also started a Mentor/Mentee program, where we pair Veterans with Rookies. In 2025/2026, our goal is to start an international program at Bonnaroo, bringing in international artists who may not otherwise have the funds to travel.

What is something important that festival goers should know to continue thriving in the festival community?


Take time to make connections.  If you’re just going to shows, you’re not getting your money’s worth at a festival.  This is the time where you can meet people that can be lifelong friends, so consider how you spend your time.  Would you rather spend a half hour at a sponsor booth and get a cheap bluetooth speaker, or would you rather visit a camp party and meet someone you’ll be friends with for life?  Spend your time wisely!

What are you currently listening to? 

I’m Stung – Pond

Rainbows & Waterfalls – Pretty Lights

Her – Megan Thee Stallion

Habits – Gary Clark, Jr. 

Astral Plane – Say She She

Changes, Pts. 1 & 2 – Neal Frances


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