Manchester, Tennessee, might not be a quiet town, but for four days every year, its sound rivals that of major metropolises.
On the opening night of Bonnaroo Music Festival 2016, harmony struck during Michigan-based funk group Vulfpeck’s performance.
Vocalist Antwaun Stanley’s soothing melodies in “Wait for the Moment” left the crowd in awe. As Stanley told the audience to break it down, a 45-foot rainbow parachute decorated with the words “Be Happy” emerged over the crowd.
Ohio State alumnus Ron Holgado co-founded Roochute, a group that deploys parachutes during public events in an effort to promote positivity in all settings. The Roochute is focused on promoting the simplest way to address mental health issues –– with kindness.
The seeds for Roochute were planted during Sacramento alternative-rock band Cake’s performance at Bonnaroo in 2014, but only served a playful purpose and as a spot for much-needed shade from the Tennessee sun.
In 2016, however, Vulfpeck’s performance was the first time Roochute was thrown over the audience during a show, an idea that co-founder of Roochute Patrick Fromuth came up with to pay homage to his college friend Stanley.
Holgado said the idea behind using a parachute stemmed from its ability to promote physical activity, release stress and offer a positive sense of nostalgia that takes people back to their elementary gym classes.
“When we become adults, we forget how to have fun, just pure unadulterated fun,” he said. “It’s always like you have to get smashed on the weekends with friends, or have a drink in order to loosen up. But when was the last time you could let down your guard and let your freak flag fly?”
Through Roochute, Holgado has tried to live a lifestyle that goes hand-in-hand with the theme of Bonnaroo –– “Radiate positivity.”
“One could go to Bonnaroo with nothing on their back, broke as a joke and not even like have any campsite or food. And people would just take care of you,” he said.
Bonnaroo might have been the place where Roochute made its debut, but its inspiration was drawn from Sasquatch Festival, an annual music event held in George, Washington.
A viral video from the festival in 2009 features a man dancing alone, who soon draws a crowd of hundreds that dance along with him. Holgado saw the video in a sociology class at Ohio State, and its meaning inspired him to create Roochute.
Each time he takes the parachute out, Holgado said he keeps that same video in mind, reminding himself to do what makes him happy.
Holgado wanted to use the parachute to raise money for cancer. However, Fromuth wanted to raise mental health awareness instead.
Fromuth saw kindness heal community during his time working at Newtown Kindness –– now the Charlotte Helen Bacon Foundation –– named after Charlotte Bacon, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
In the summer of 2017, Ohio State alumna Hannah Bonacci took a small parachute to Ghana as a part of her foundation’s partnership with Roochute. The foundation promotes economic development and global citizenship through sustainable initiatives that empower women and children in Ghana.
“When we brought it out, they were so excited … they were screaming and happy and jumping around. We played with it for like an hour,” Bonacci said. “It served as an outlet for the children in a positive way.”