“The Big Gig”: Summerfest’s Evolving Role in the City of Milwaukee
Johnson, Paul Andrew
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Summerfest has long been a staple to the city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. The festival went through a lot to achieve to the high status it carries today. It all started, in 1962, when long-time Mayor Henry Maier wanted to bring an event to Milwaukee that would propel it out of the shadows of the Twin Cities and Chicago. Milwaukee has a long standing German heritage that played a huge role both the festival and city’s founding. After years of planning, the festival was in doubt when race riots rocked the city the summer before its inaugural event, but the festival would proceed. Summerfest started out in several locations around the city to be accessible to many people, it was later moved to the lakefront. The festival is now the world’s largest outdoor music festival. I want to tell the story of Summerfest as it changed to meet Milwaukee’s needs. Readers should understand the festival’s evolution from a cultural celebration, to a tool to cover-up the city’s black eye after the riots of 1967, to something bigger in the years that followed. Readers should also understand the longevity of the event for Milwaukee. The festival celebrated its fortieth birthday during the summer of 2007.
Summerfest (Milwaukee, Wis.)--History.
Milwaukee (Wis.)--Social life and customs.
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