Summerfest Information

From Wikipedia

Table of Contents ⇨
Milwaukee Summerfest logo.gif
Genre Alternative, Americana, Bluegrass, Blues, Contemporary, Country, Electronic, Folk, Funk, Gospel, Hard rock, Metal, Hip hop, Indie, Jam band, Jazz, Pop, R&B, Reggae, Rock, Zydeco
Dates11 days (Starts last Wednesday in June annually)
Location(s) Henry Maier Festival Park
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
Years active1968–present

Summerfest is Milwaukee, Wisconsin's annual music festival, held since 1968 on Milwaukee's downtown "Summerfest Grounds", adjacent to the city's Lake Michigan lakefront and central business district. The 75-acre (30-hectare) site, officially named " Henry Maier Festival Park", hosts performances spanning approximately 11 days, usually including America's Independence Day holiday. The venue provides 12 stages with performances from over 800 acts and over 1000 performances. Since the mid-1970s, it has run from late June through early July, usually including the 4th of July holiday. [1] Summerfest attracts between 800,000 and 900,000 people each year, promoting itself as "The World's Largest Music Festival", a title certified by the Guinness World Records since 1999. [2] [3]

Summerfest is operated by a non-profit board that hires the production staff to operate both the venue and main Summerfest event, which features local and nationally known music talent from a variety of music genres. The event also provides the opportunity to sample a wide variety of food from many Milwaukee-area restaurants. Other Summerfest attractions include comedy acts, shopping vendors, fireworks (including "The Big Bang" on opening night), other special attractions, family activities, and more. [4]

Performing and Recording Artists make personal appearances on 12 sponsor-themed stages throughout the grounds from noon to midnight, including the 23,000-capacity American Family Insurance Amphitheater. [5]


Summerfest was conceived in the 1960s by then-mayor Henry W. Maier. Inspired by his visit to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, Maier envisioned a similar ethnic-themed festival in Milwaukee, and in 1962 formed a panel of business and civic leaders to study the feasibility of a large-scale summer festival. By the middle of the decade, the panel drew up a proposal for a 10-day multi-event festival with the proposed name of "Milwaukee World Festival," which was changed briefly in 1966 to "Juli Spaß" (German for "July Fun") and then to "Summerfest".[ citation needed]

The inaugural Summerfest was held in July 1968 at 35 different locations throughout the city (including Milwaukee County Stadium and Milwaukee Arena), and its events ranged from concerts to a film festival, an air show, and even a pageant. The first Summerfest, produced by Dee Robb and Con Merten was regarded as a success; the second event in 1969, was less successful, as it was plagued by additional venues, inclement weather, and severe financial debt.

In 1970, a permanent central location was decided upon, and Summerfest moved to a former Nike missile site on the lakefront, where it continues to be held to this day. Also that year, Summerfest introduced its red "smiley face" logo, an insignia that has become synonymous with the event. The logo was designed by local graphic artists Noel Spangler and Richard D. Grant. [6]

It was also in 1970 that Henry Jordan, former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle, became executive director of Summerfest, a title he held during the event's early years until his death in 1977. After a few other businessmen were hired by the board for the executive director's job, Elizabeth "Bo" Black, [7] who was formerly Henry Jordan's secretary, became executive director in 1984 after a ten-year lobbying effort.

The event has not been without its controversy. On December 9, 2002, Lee Gates commented in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the lack of opportunity to play at Summerfest. "I don't get the credit I deserve here. I've been playing 50-something years. There's discrimination at Summerfest. I shouldn't need to have a CD out to be paid $700 at Summerfest. If they want you to have CDs, they should pay you like they pay the professional people." [8]

Summerfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2007. The event's history was the subject of "Summerfest Stories", a documentary that aired in June 2007 on Milwaukee Public Television. [9]

In 2015, Milwaukee World Festival, Inc and ReverbNation announced a three-year agreement to use the online service as an audition to give musicians a chance to perform. Summerfest wanted to provide an opportunity for performers to get a chance to be one of the 800+ acts and allow new talent to be seen by over 900,000 people that attend.



In 2014, Summerfest managed to draw and host 851,879 patrons, an increase of 1.4% over 2013's 840,356 attendance, overcoming unseasonable weather challenges, including fog, intermittent rain and cool temperatures, along with significant highway and road construction projects in the immediate area. Food and beverage sales at the event increased by 6% over last year's totals in the same categories. Summerfest employed nearly 2,200 seasonal employees. Festival fans sampled over 45 diverse food and beverage vendors, which resulted in the consumption of 66,011 burgers, 20,799 brats, 17,842 eggplant strips, 96,344 mozzarella sticks, 38,202 ears of corn, 181,758 mini donuts and 33,728 ice cream cones. [10]


Summerfest 2015 attracted 772,652 people, a 9.3% decline in attendance attributed to the combined Zoo Interchange and north-south portion of I-94's construction projects, along with cooler weather and a three-day strike against the Milwaukee County Transit System by the union representing bus drivers. An additional 23,000 fans attended the Rolling Stones' Summerfest kickoff June 23, the day before the festival began. [11]


Summerfest 2016 attendance numbers were up by 4.1% compared to the previous year. In 2016, 804,116 people attended Summerfest. High attendance was partly attributed to a performance by Paul McCartney and good weather. [12]


Summerfest attendance hit 831,769 people in 2017, according to results released by Milwaukee World Festival Inc. The attendance figure represented a 3.4% boost from 2016. Nearly 115,935 people — entered the grounds through free daily admission promotion offers. It marks two years of consecutive attendance growth for Summerfest, despite heavy rain on opening day of the 2017 festival. [13]


The 2018 Summerfest was held from June 27th to July 8th (not including July 2nd) and attracted 766,192 visitors, which was an 8% decrease from 2017. [14] The decline in attendance is thought to have been as a result of heat and rain during the festival.


Summerfest had a 6% decline in attendance for 2019, a drop the festival blamed on four days of threatening weather and one night without a headlining act on its main stage. In a statement issued, Summerfest officials said its 2019 attendance was 718,144, down from 766,192 last year.


American Family Insurance Amphitheater

The American Family Insurance Amphitheater is an amphitheater on the south end of the Summerfest grounds. Previously known as the "Marcus Amphitheater", it was built after an extremely overcrowded concert in 1984 to carry crowds of 25,000 fans during concerts. It was completed in 1987, with the principal contribution from the Marcus Corporation. [15]

A new American Family Insurance Amphitheater is scheduled for construction in 2019. [16]

Uline Warehouse

Located on the north end of the grounds, the Uline Warehouse can accommodate approximately 5,000 - 6,000 and hosts a mix of acts from various genres including classic rock, country, hard rock, blues, and jam.

U.S. Cellular Connection

The U.S. Cellular Connection Stage features primarily country and pop music. iHeartMedia, including FM 106.1, is the media partner of the stage.

Johnson Controls World Sound Stage

The Johnson Controls World Sound Stage lineup hosts a mix of acts spanning genres including R&B, blues, world beat, and soul.

Miller Lite Oasis

The Miller Lite Oasis stage, completed in 2006, is the largest stage inside the Summerfest grounds that is accessible without having to pay extra for the American Family Insurance Amphitheatre headliner. A renovation of the Miller Lite Oasis stage has completed for Summerfest 2017. Additions to the stage footprint include the "longest bar on the grounds", fresh hops growing alongside the stage, a second VIP deck and handicap accessibility near the front of the stage. Citation

Harley-Davidson Roadhouse

Harley-Davidson teamed up with Summerfest to completely renovate their stage and area footprint for the 2008 festival season. The renovation improved sight lines, sound and lighting, while also increasing the area's capacity and providing for improved traffic flow in and around the stage area. Upgrades included large video screens for image magnification of performances and a comfortable seating area at the lakefront. [17]

Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard

In 2011, a renovated Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard stage opened. [18] [19] Its capacity ranges from 6,000 to 8,000. [20]

BMO Harris Pavilion

In 2012, the BMO Harris Pavilion finished construction. The new pavilion and stage, designed by Eppstein Uhen Architects, features a swooshing wave-like roof and replaces the temporary Classic Rock Stage on the south end of the grounds. It is the main project of phase two of Summerfest's two-year, US$35 million redevelopment project.

The pavilion features a 10,000-person capacity, including 5,000 seats. A 17-by-10-foot video screen has been added to enhance viewing for standing-room-only patrons. Additional amenities include a lakeside sit-down restaurant and a "club bar" – with room for 200 patrons and a commanding view of the stage – open to the public during unsold time periods. Plans are also in the works to book concerts at the pavilion outside of Summerfest. [21] There have been complaints that this is now the first ticketed venue in what was a completely general admission festival since the beginning of Summerfest in 1968, besides American Family Insurance Amphitheater. [22]

Klement's Sausage and Beer Garden Stage

The Klement's Sausage and Beer Garden stage first appeared at Summerfest in 2018. Located at the north end of the festival park, it features local artists from 2-8pm daily, as well as picnic tables, a turf lawn, barbecue grills, and a booth to buy Klement's products [23]

KNE New Music Stage

The KNE New Music Stage, sponsored by K-Nation Entertainment, is located on the north end of the park near the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage. Featuring local and regional acts, this is the smallest of the stages, save for Tiki Hut and Refugee (listed below). The stage was previously co-sponsored by Cascio Interstate Music through 2013, and has since fallen under scrutiny for straying from purely local talent. [24] The stage was not brought back to the festival in 2016, as a result of K-Nation Entertainment deciding not to return as a sponsor. [25]

Tiki Hut

The Tiki Hut is a small lakefront stage that often features local but talented acts, with genres ranging from acoustic to electronic funk. The area often serves as an oasis for concertgoers looking to get away from the crowds and heat from the larger stages. Unlike most other stages, a single band may perform more than one act per day for a block of three to four days, which aids in developing a local following. The performers on this, and many of the smaller stages usually work for tips, as they are not paid to be there. A few current mainstays and crowd favorites of the Tiki Hut are Roster McCabe, a high-energy Minneapolis-based rock/rap/reggae/funk/electronic fusion group, live-looper Ari Herstand (from 2006-2010), and acoustic guitarists Dan Rodriguez, Nora Collins, and Derek Sallmann. [26]

The Rebel Stage

The Rebel Stage celebrates their 10th year in 2017, and continues to feature a wide variety of original music crossing many genres. The Rebel Stage is located on the Lake Walk of the festival grounds, just south of the "Hole-In-One" golf challenge. As a DIY stage founded by musicians, The Rebel Stage never fails to offer a relaxed vibe, perfectly complimenting people's experience while they enjoy new original music. More information can be found at their website

Concert history year by year

Summerfest has been most famous for its music, ever since the first festival in 1968, when acts such as Ronnie Dove, The New Colony Six, The Robbs and Up With People performed. Since then, musical acts from Bob Dylan, The Jonas Brothers, Maroon 5, Fun, Britney Spears, Tina Turner, and James Taylor to Christina Aguilera, Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Mary J. Blige, Wiz Khalifa, Imagine Dragons, and Nine Inch Nails have graced the Summerfest stages. Acts with Milwaukee and Wisconsin connections have had a prominent history at Summerfest, most notably the BoDeans, The Gufs, Danny Gokey, and Violent Femmes.[ citation needed]

The concerts have been mostly civil events, with two notable exceptions. In 1970, a performance by the late-arriving Sly & the Family Stone nearly resulted in a riot. In 1973, a performance by Humble Pie & Jo Jo Gunne resulted in a riot, a bonfire, and about 300 arrests. As a result of the latter concert, organizers shied away from rock bands for several years, and established guidelines for "family-friendly" acts and a ban on alcohol brought in by patrons. This was properly managed when Henry Jordan found the experienced managers: Joel Gast and Lou Volpano, to manage entertainment in-house, eliminating Cleveland's Jules Belkin Promotions, who were hired by Board Members Bernie Samson and Steve Marcus. Also at that time local manager Volpano was hired specifically to improve production and book international superstars on what was a mere Local Rock Stage, where then the Ramones, UFO, and Judas Priest headlined [27]

Live comedy acts have also been a part of Summerfest's history, even before a regular "Comedy Showcase" was first established in 1975. Bob Hope was the main headliner at Summerfest 1969, performing two shows at Milwaukee County Stadium. George Carlin (opening for Arlo Guthrie) performed his " Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" routine at the 1972 event (and was subsequently arrested for violating obscenity laws). Prior to his arrest, he discarded a bag of cocaine to avoid further imprisonment. [28]

Since 1975, comedy acts ranging from David Brenner and Henny Youngman to Jay Leno and Jon Stewart have performed at the event. Sandra Bernhard did TV and radio promos for its 1986 season when she was a performer there. Lewis Black has become a frequent performer at Summerfest, making near-annual performances since his first appearance in 1991. [29]


For 2015, Linkin Park, Keith Urban, Ed Sheeran, Florida Georgia Line, Zac Brown Band, Kings of Leon, Kendrick Lamar, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Carrie Underwood, and The Avett Brothers performed as headliners. [30]

The Rolling Stones performed its first Milwaukee concert in 10 years, June 23 at the Marcus Amphitheater on the Summerfest grounds, as part of a summer run being dubbed the Zip Code Tour. The band invited a 26-member vocal ensemble from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, that was featured during the concert. June 23 is technically the day before Summerfest's opening night, but the Big Gig[ clarification needed] promoted the Stones concert as "The Ultimate Kick-Off to Summerfest." [31]

On April 20, 2015 it was announced Stevie Wonder would fill the June 27 headlining spot at the festival, his first Milwaukee concert since 2009.

The 2015 Summerfest ground stage headliners were announced on March 24 by Billboard. They include Aloe Blacc, The Doobie Brothers, Sammy Hagar, Pat Benatar, Whitesnake, Third Eye Blind, Weird Al, and others. [30] [32]


Selena Gomez opened the festival on June 29. Pitbull took the stage on June 30. Country singer Blake Shelton headlines on July 1, Chris Stapleton on July 2, Tim McGraw on July 3, Blink-182 on July 5, Def Leppard and REO Speedwagon on July 6, Luke Bryan on July 7, Paul McCartney on July 8, Weezer and Panic! at the Disco July 9, and Sting and Peter Gabriel on July 10. [33]

The 2016 ground stages included Willie Nelson, Rise Against, Hollywood Vampires, Hunter Hayes, Jason Derulo, Gavin Degraw, Nelly, The Fray, Barenaked Ladies, Billy Idol, Joan Jett, Weird Al, Violent Femmes, Timeflies, Cheap Trick, Bodeans, Skillet, OAR, Styx, and Blue Öyster Cult. [34]


Performers in 2017 included: Red Hot Chili Peppers, [35] Luke Bryan, Brothers Osborne, [35] Paul Simon, Zac Brown Band, [35] P!nk, [35] The Chainsmokers, [35] Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Chris Stapleton, [35] Dierks Bentley, Jon Pardi, Cole Swindell, Future, Big Sean, Migos, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Margo Price, Promise of the Real, Steve Miller Band, [36] A Day to Remember, Atmosphere, Walk the Moon, Shinedown, Andy Grammar, Third Eye Blind, The Band Perry, Philip Phillips, Collective Soul, Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, Tonic, Soul Asylum, Los Lonely Boys, [35] Peter Frampton, Huey Lewis & the News, Toto, REO Speedwagon, and John Waite. [35]


Performers in 2018 at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater include: James Taylor & Bonnie Raitt, Halsey & Logic, Arcade Fire, Florida Georgia Line, Dave Matthews Band, Blake Shelton, J. Cole, Journey and Def Leppard, The Weeknd, and Imagine Dragons. [37]


The performers in 2019 at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater include: Thomas Rhett, Counting Crows, Jason Aldean, Zac Brown Band, Lionel Richie, Jennifer Lopez, The Killers, & Lil Wayne, Billie Eilish, Snoop Dogg. [30]

Ground stage 2019 performances include rock artists Chicago, Foreigner, Loverboy, Styx, & 38 Special. Pop artists Jason Mraz, Walk the Moon, Third Eye Blind, Jimmy Eat World, 3 Doors Down, X Ambassadors, Switchfoot, Skillet, and Collective Soul. [30]

Opening headliners


1997-1998 web banner for Winterfest

Beginning in the winter of 1989-1990, Summerfest organizers staged a colder (in the literal sense) version of Summerfest, known as Winterfest. Rather than being chiefly set at Henry Maier Festival Park, the event took inspiration from Summerfest's early days and spread its music, comedy, and other events throughout several downtown Milwaukee locations, the central spot being an ice skating rink in Cathedral Square Park. Due largely to undesirable Milwaukee winters, Winterfest was never as profitable as its older summer counterpart, and ceased operations after the 1997-98 event.[ citation needed] However, the Cathedral Square rink has remained a yearly tradition long after the end of Winterfest.[ citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "Home | Summerfest, The World's Largest Music Festival". Retrieved 2015-12-12.
  2. ^ " :".
  3. ^ [1] Archived June 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Home | Summerfest, Special Attractions". Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  5. ^ [2] Archived May 8, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Stingl, Jim. "The man behind Summerfest's big, fat smile logo". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
  7. ^ Garza, Jesse. "Black undergoes surgery after stroke".
  8. ^ "Google Groups". Retrieved 2017-07-16.
  9. ^ "News & Events | Milwaukee Public Television". Archived from the original on July 3, 2015.
  10. ^ "Summerfest's Attendance Was Up A Bit This Year".
  11. ^ Foran, Chris (2015-07-07). "Summerfest 2015 - Summerfest attendance down 9.3%; weather, bus strike, road woes blamed". Retrieved 2015-12-12.
  12. ^ Green, Christie (July 14, 2016). "Summerfest Releases Its Attendance Numbers". CBS 58.
  13. ^ Justin Thompson-Gee (July 13, 2017). "831,769 attend Summerfest 50". CBS58.
  14. ^ "Summerfest attendance down in 2018". 13 July 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  15. ^ "Marcus Amphitheatre". Marcus Amphitheatre. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  16. ^ Shafer, Dan (10 March 2017). "Summerfest performs its own role in downtown transformation". Milwaukee Business Journal. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  17. ^ [3] Archived June 5, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ " Music: Briggs & Stratton re-ups with Summerfest for 10 years".
  19. ^ Kevin Kosterman; Tyler Maas (June 27, 2012). "Summerfest Free Stages". Milwaukee Magazine. Archived from the original on January 28, 2013.
  20. ^ "Summerfest - The World's Largest Music Festival". Summerfest - The World's Largest Music Festival. Retrieved 2016-01-13.
  21. ^ " Milwaukee Buzz: First look: Summerfest's BMO Harris Pavilion".
  22. ^ Jackie Loohauis-Bennett. "Summerfest 2012 - Reserved Summerfest seating at BMO Harris draws mixed reviews".
  23. ^ "Klement's Sausage and Beer Garden - Summerfest, The World's Largest Music Festival". Summerfest - The World's Largest Music Festival. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  24. ^ "K-Nation takes Summerfest sponsorship to a horrible level". Milwaukee Record. Retrieved 2016-01-13.
  25. ^ "Summerfest's KNE New Music Stage, home for local music, not returning". Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  26. ^ "Local musician Derek Sallmann evolves from dreamer to #Summerfest performer". Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  27. ^ "Summerfest: Gig has had many high notes". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Journal Interactive. 2007-06-28. Archived from the original on 2015-08-03. Retrieved 2010-08-10. Summerfest is all things to all ears - or at least, it tries to be. Of the major American music festivals, none paints with as broad a brush.
  28. ^ Jon M. Gilbertson. "The Fray, OK Go and Mae - Fray stays in background but pumps out big sound".
  29. ^ Levy, Piet. "Lewis Black on the Summerfest Marcus Amphitheater comedy show that never happened (but may some day still come to be)".
  30. ^ a b c d e "Home - Summerfest, The World's Largest Music Festival". Summerfest - The World's Largest Music Festival.
  31. ^ Levy, Piet. "Rolling Stones - Summerfest will kick off with Rolling Stones show June 23".
  32. ^ "Summerfest 2015 Announces Grounds Stage Headliners: Kaskade, Bastille, the Flaming Lips, Sheryl Crow, More (Exclusive)". Billboard.
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  36. ^ "Steve Miller Band to headline Summerfest's BMO Harris Pavilion". February 15, 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-02-16. Retrieved 2017-02-16.
  37. ^ "Summerfest 2018 Headliners".
  38. ^ "Summerfest Schedule, 1968". The Milwaukee Journal. Children in Urban America Project, Marquette University. July 14, 1968.
  39. ^ "Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers to Headline Marcus Amphitheater During Summerfest '08". Archived from the original on 2011-09-26. Retrieved 2011-06-03.
  40. ^ "Bon Jovi to Headline Marcus Amphitheater During Summerfest 2009". Archived from the original on 2011-09-26. Retrieved 2011-06-10.
  41. ^ "Tim McGraw to Headline Marcus Amphitheater During Summerfest 2010". Archived from the original on 2011-09-26. Retrieved 2011-06-03.
  42. ^ "Peter Gabriel to Headline Marcus Amphitheater During Summerfest 2011". Archived from the original on 2011-09-26. Retrieved 2011-06-03.
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External links