Hop on the Roo Bus for fun, music, kindness, love
Hop on the Roo Bus. Destination: Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. The Roo Bus has become a symbol of fun, joy, kindness and love. The blue bus serves as a canvas, a room and a stage. Welcoming Bonnaroovians, the Roo Bus inspires connections, creates unforgettable moments, and preserves memories. Owners Sharla and Daniel Horton, who live just outside of Huntsville, Alabama, share a passion for impacting the world in a positive way. They love to find new friends, to sing, to dance. Their love story began with shared passion for music.
“We're originally from Russellville, Alabama, a really rural area just south of the Shoals,” Daniel said. “Sharla was one year ahead of me in our high school, and I remember first being really interested in her when she bought an Aerosmith poster at a vintage store while we were both on the same school field trip.”
Sharla and Daniel have always loved music and the whole culture around it.
“For example, ‘Almost Famous’ is one of our favorite movies and we probably watch it two or three times a year,” Daniel said. “Going to Bonnaroo and becoming the caretakers of the Roo Bus sort of became inevitable.”
Sharla and Daniel purchased the colorful vehicle – a school bus adorned with psychedelic decorations – in 2017, when it already had gained fame and recognition.
The original owners and creators of the bus were Bob and Tammy Wilson.
“Their place was just a few miles away from the Bonnaroo Farm,” Daniel said. “We had parked our old RV next to them at a Bonnaroo years ago, and we became great friends. When they decided to pass the bus along, Sharla put in an offer for it. Ever since we have done our best to keep the tradition going. That was the biggest reason we wanted to have it – we saw what it meant to a lot of people. Many regular Roo attendees would come to add their signatures year after year. Bonnaroo is the best modern equivalent to something like Woodstock, and we've been thrilled to be part of that history and tradition.”
The Roo Bus is special to Sharla, Daniel and many others because it's an ever-evolving art piece and serves as a museum of Bonnaroo.
“In addition to being a party bus with room to sleep in, it houses what's basically a museum of Bonnaroo inside, with tons of relics and keepsakes from the whole history of the festival,” Daniel said. “One of the coolest things inside the bus is a laminated table with some tickets from some of the first Bonnaroo events. We've also kept a lot of the keepsakes (Bonnaroo organizers) give away every year, as well as art that a lot of other Bonnaroovians have donated.”
The exterior of the bus provides a visual feast for music lovers.
“The outside is really special as well, as it has thousands of signatures, jokes, and pieces of art from just about everyone who has ever visited,” Daniel said. “Even Chance the Rapper and Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers have signed it.”
The Roo Bus has also hosted various events, including a wedding and a concert from Nashville band *repeat repeat, one of Sharla’s favorite experiences.
"My favorite Bonnaroo memory is definitely our infamous Wednesday bus party with the band *repeat repeat in 2018,” Sharla said. “Seeing hundreds of Roovians show up was an incredible experience I’ll never forget."
The bus will head to The Farm in September and create more memories for music enthusiasts and art lovers. Bonnaroo organizers canceled the 2020 event because of the pandemic. This year, Bonnaroo is set for Sept. 2-5.
Sharla is looking forward to seeing Run the Jewels, Nelly and Mdou Moctar.
“We are absolutely going to the festival this year,” Daniel said. “We never refunded our tickets in 2020 because we always knew that we'd go back to Bonnaroo whenever they had it again. We're looking forward to seeing all of our Roo friends again and even throwing an event at the bus on the Wednesday night of Bonnaroo.”
Someone please tell Tame Impala’s frontman Kevin Parker to sign the Roo Bus!
One of the bands Daniel is excited to see is Tame Impala.
“I'm most looking forward to Tame Impala,” Daniel said. “Over the last five years, they have easily turned into my favorite band ever. The combination of their psychedelic rock sound and introspective lyrics have had a big connection for me. I'm really looking forward to finally hearing the new songs off of their latest album live. I'm even more thrilled because they're playing on my birthday at Bonnaroo. (Someone please tell their frontman Kevin to come sign the Roo Bus).”
Most of all, what makes Bonnaroo special is the community. Music fans, dance enthusiasts, peace lovers and art creators meet to radiate positivity.
“To us though, the biggest headliners of Bonnaroo are the other Bonnaroovians who come year after year,” Daniel said. “We have become great friends with much of Camp Reddaroo, The Parachute People and many other groups and personalities who also never miss a Bonnaroo.”
Camp Reddaroo is a community created yearly in Groop Camping since 2012. Camp Reddaroo has been the largest Groop Camp at Bonnaroo. Originally organized through reddit, the Groop is now home to more than 250 Reddarooers every year, according to reddaroo.com.
The Parachute People started out as a group of friends aiming to share positivity in a disconnected world. The first parachute, originally known as Roochute, unified strangers, spreading smiles and laughter, according to theparachutepeople.org.
Daniel and Sharla can’t wait to see their Bonnaroo friends.
“Amazing people like them are really what makes Bonnaroo, and this year's reunion is going to be something really special,” Daniel said.
Daniel and Sharla's best friend, Brooklin Johnson, is also part of the Roo Bus crew.
“Much of the art we have on the bus is from Brooklin,” Daniel said. “She always has the best ideas for new things like blacklight-sensitive murals on the staircase and back of the bus.”
Bonnaroo’s positivity reaches beyond The Farm in Manchester, Tennessee. Brooklin would sometimes bump into someone she knows from Bonnaroo.
"Being recognized by a community that I adore, really changes my day,” Brooklin said. “If I’m having a terrible day and someone recognizes me from the Roo Bus crew, I know I’m about to have a five-minute conversation about my favorite event of the year."