The Greatest Show On Earth

It’s mid-June in Milwaukee. Amid the shining sun and hot pavement, a familiar scene plays out.

All over the city, officials and city workers are scrambling to get the information out, not just to concerned citizens, but to the rest of the world. Buses are being rerouted. Highways that have been closed for over a year are being reopened; some say, just in time.

It‘s coming.

Summerfest logo (image stolen from consequenceofsound.wordpress.com)
(image stolen from consequenceofsound.wordpress.com)

For those who don’t understand the meaning of that goofy red smiley face, it’s simple. Since 1968, Milwaukee has played host to a summer music festival called Summerfest; since 1970, that smiley face has served as the festival’s logo.

Since 1999, it’s held the Guinness World Record for the title of “World’s Largest Music Festival” every year; this year, it expects to bring in between 800,000 and 1 million visitors.

Held at the Henry Maier Festival Park on the Third Ward’s lakefront edge over the course of 11 days in late June and early July (including Independence Day), and spanning 11 stages, 700 bands, arguably the state’s largest fireworks display (The Big Bang), and dozens of food venues, the “Big Gig” has earned its place as one of the must-see summer attractions of Milwaukee.

From headliner acts including The Rolling Stones, Kings of Leon, and Florida Georgia Line, to free stage acts like Walk the Moon (a personal favorite of mine since I first heard them perform Anna Sun at the Fest years ago), Weird Al Yankovic, and Lindsey Stirling, to sideshow performers, robotics demonstrations, weightlifting displays, kids shows, face painting, merchandise booths, local microbrew vendors, and so on, it’s Milwaukee’s musical equivalent of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras (just a lot cleaner and with slightly less public debauchery).

And the food is fantastic.

Henry Maier Festival Park plays host to dozens of food vendors during the festival, from permanent and semi-permanent fixtures such as Kokopelli’s Pub, Saz’s, and Mader’s, to lemonade and hot dog carts, chain restaurants like Qdoba and Wendy’s (ehhh), slushie vendors, and the delightful portable booth of Sil’s Mini Donuts (a Milwaukee favorite, forced to leave their drive-thru building on North and Oakland a few years ago, citing rising costs).

This year is special for Sydney and I; it’s the first year that she’ll be 21, and her birthday is the first day of Summerfest. While we aren’t planning on attending the Fest that day (we’d rather see the fireworks from elsewhere, and pick up her commemorative birthday mug from Rosie’s on Water), it’s something we won’t be able to pass up.

So, Milwaukee, grab your suntan lotion, your tanktops, and your big plastic sunglasses; it’s Summerfest time.

Fabulous, Darling!

PrideFest Milwaukee (photo stolen from radiomilwaukee.org)
PrideFest Milwaukee (photo stolen from radiomilwaukee.org)

In only a few short hours, PrideFest Milwaukee, the “most dynamic pride festival, featuring the largest LGBT music showcase in North America” will officially commence. It’s such a big deal, Google changed their search results page to include a custom border. I couldn’t be more proud.

Custom Pridefest Border on Google!
Custom Pridefest Border on Google!

A longstanding tradition among Milwaukee’s sizable LGBT community, PrideFest is entering into its 28th year. Taking place on Summerfest grounds with a fully volunteer-based crew, this year’s PrideFest marks a few special occasions: This is the first year where gay marriage in Wisconsin is legally recognized for every day of the festival (as opposed to that debacle in the courts during last year’s PrideFest between U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb and WI Attorney General JB Van Hollen); in addition, it comes hot on the heels of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 7, in which Milwaukee-based drag queen Trixie Mattel (who I met through Rocky Horror, once upon a time) was seen as a fan favorite throughout the season, even being eliminated not once, but twice, largely by technicality.  (She still should’ve won.) The plastic queen herself will be serving as an emcee of sorts, playing host all three days to Trixie Mattel’s Funhouse, a VIP-only meet-and-greet establishment within the festival, serving food, drinks, and snacks, and providing music and lots of shade.

The event takes place from 3pm to midnight on Friday, noon to midnight on Saturday, and noon to 10pm on Sunday (with the Dance Pavilion closing at midnight). Tickets start from $16 at the gates for 1-day admission (tickets were $13 by online order, but that’s closed already), and go up to $100 for 3-day exclusive VIP access. (I’d post more about this, but as of writing this they TOOK DOWN THE PRICES FROM THEIR WEBSITE!)

In addition to the festival, on Sunday, June 7th at 2:00pm, there will be the Milwaukee Pride Parade, traveling from 2nd and Lapham in Walker’s Point up to 2nd and Oregon. (Note: The festival and the parade are not legally affiliated with one another, but they coincide on the same weekend every year.) I will be walking in the Pride Parade with the cast of Sensual Daydreams (Milwaukee’s Rocky Horror Picture Show shadowcast), and I’ll be attending PrideFest in Riff Raff attire afterwards, rain or shine. (Sydney will probably be there as well, though she’s recovering from having gotten all four of her wisdom teeth removed on June 4th.)

There will be festival food (good festival food, actually) available at PrideFest; I plan on availing myself to it, and reporting back to you readers on the festival, the parade, the food, and the whole crazy mess every year inevitably turns out to be.

As a side note, don’t forget that today is the second day of Downtown Dining Week! Check my other post for details.

Anyone up for a movie?

Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper: Actually, it’s pronounced “mill-e-wah-que”, which is Algonquin for “the good land”.
Wayne Campbell: I was not aware of that.

During the summer, along the Milwaukee lakefront at the Discovery World museum, Point Brewing Company sponsors a free four-night outdoor movie event known as “Point Fish Fry and a Flick“. Catered by none other than Milwaukee’s most prolific restaurant mafiosos, the Bartolotta brothers, and serving Point beer and Ciderboys hard cider, the Point Fish Fry and a Flick has become a modern movie tradition in Milwaukee.

This year’s lineup includes the following films:

The events, starting at 5pm on selected Fridays, are free to attend, although you are charged for food and drinks (cash this year, as opposed to the all-too-frequent food tickets). The films themselves will start when the sun goes down (between 8 and 9pm), so don’t be in too much of a hurry. Food and drinks are cash-only (though ATMs are available), and bringing your own food or drink is disallowed. Keep in mind, the fish fry will typically not be available after the movie has started, so order early. Some seating is available under the main tent, but chairs and blankets are also allowed on the lawn.

Follow the event on Twitter at @FishFryAndFlick.