The opening weekend of the ‘world’s biggest music festival’ is well underway, drawing large crowds, live entertainment and a lineup of local food and drinks at the Henry Meier Festival Park on Lake Milwaukee.
summer festival this year returns to its usual place on the Milwaukee events calendar, after being postponed to September 2021 and canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the second time that the festival has been held only on weekends compared to its traditional 11-day run.
Over the past few years, the annual event has had an estimated $186 million in economic impact on the Milwaukee area. In 2019, the festival welcomed 718,144 visitors. Attendance dropped significantly last year due to the festival moving to September, COVID-related entry restrictions and the emerging delta variant.
Summerfest officially opened on Thursday, with country singer Jason Aldean headlining the American Family Insurance Amphitheater. Opening weekend headliners also include hip-hop stars Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa and Wu Tang Clan. Justin Bieber was originally scheduled to perform on Friday June 24, but the pop star announced just days ago that he would be postponing the show as he recovers from Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, which temporarily crippled half of his face. See photos from the opening day of the festival below.
Some of the live bands on the ground throughout the festival include rock band Steve Miller Band, 90s grunge era band Stone Temple Pilots, KC & The Sunshine Band and hip hop bands like Lupe Fiasco and Atmosphere.
Summerfest kicks off this year after some changes in its executive management. This year is the penultimate festival for the longtime chef Don SmileyWho’s gonna do it withdraw as general manager of Milwaukee World Festival Inc. at the end of 2023. After announcing his retirement earlier this month, Smiley passed on the role of chairman to Sarah Smith Pancheri, previously chief operating officer and vice president of sales and marketing at MWF. This year marks the last festival season as head of entertainment for the longtime talent buyer Bob Babishwho will step down at the end of the year and move into a consulting role.
Summerfest has at least one new corporate partner this year: Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. As part of the multi-year sponsorship agreement, announced earlier this month, the casino will take its name from the Founder’s Club, an upscale VIP hospitality space at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater. He will also be the presenting sponsor of Summerfest Fan Appreciation Day on July 9th.