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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
Dates 11 days (Starts last Wednesday in June annually)
Location(s) Henry Maier Festival Park
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
Years active 1968–2019, 2021–
Attendance Increase 445,611 (2022)
Decrease 409,386 (2021)
Decrease 718,144 (2019)
Decrease 766,192 (2018)
831,769 (2017)

Summerfest is an annual music festival held in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. First held in 1968, Summerfest is located at Henry Maier Festival Park, adjacent to Lake Michigan and Milwaukee's central business district. Summerfest attracts approximately 800,000 people each year, promoting itself as "The World's Largest Music Festival", a title certified by Guinness World Records in 1999, but has been surpassed in attendance by Donauinselfest with over three million in 2015. While Summerfest has one of the highest aggregate attendances in the world, the daily attendance of Summerfest is lower than other major American music festivals. In 2022, the daily attendance of Summerfest was 49,500.

During Summerfest, the 75 acre (30 ha) park would usually host performances over 11 days, from late June until early July (including the Fourth of July). It was announced recently that the festival would move to a three weekend schedule to allow for more Friday and Saturday event days. The performers include local and nationally known music talent from various genres, performing throughout the grounds from noon to midnight, including the 23,000-capacity American Family Insurance Amphitheater. Since 2004, nearly $150 million has been invested into Henry Maier Festival Park, including permanent stages, bars, production space, VIP amenities and other infrastructure.

Summerfest also showcases a wide variety of food from many Milwaukee-area restaurants. Other Summerfest attractions include shopping vendors, fireworks (including "The Big Bang" on opening night), family activities, and more. Summerfest is operated by Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. a non-profit organization, which is governed by a volunteer board of directors.

In its 50+ year history, Summerfest has hosted a variety of well-known artists, including Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Metallica, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Kenny Chesney, Aerosmith, Bruno Mars, Arctic Monkeys, Lady Gaga, Usher and Dave Matthews Band.

Don Smiley has served as president and chief executive officer of Summerfest since 2004.


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".

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.

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, who was formerly Henry Jordan's secretary, became executive director in 1984 after a ten-year lobbying effort.

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.

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.

2020 saw the COVID-19 pandemic as grounds for scrapping the concert part & moving others online.


Summerfest Attendance Since 1995

Summerfest attendance peaked in 2001 at 1,000,563 attendees. Summerfest was closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the event was only 9 days instead of 11, and it occurred in September rather than during the summer months.

Stages and other venues

The Summerfest grounds include seven permanent stages and two pavilions that can be converted to stages (Johnson Controls World Sound Stage and the South Pavilion).

Stage Name Capacity Photo Notes
American Family Insurance Amphitheater 23,000 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. In 2019, the roof was raised from 39 feet to 65 feet. The backstage building was also rebuilt, offering new artist amenities. Later renovations included a new seating bowl configuration and raised stage to allow for better sightlines, enhanced accessibility, expanded concourses, new video screens, updated food and beverage operations, new VIP hospitality areas, and additional restrooms.
BMO Harris Pavilion 10,000 Marcus Amphitheater - panoramio (2).jpg Designed and built in 2012 the venue features a wave-inspired roof, which covers more than an acre of space (approximately 50,000 square feet) and provides protection from the elements for approximately 5,000 guests with high-quality permanent seats and bleachers with backrests and another 5,000 guests in its standing room viewing area adjacent to the venue and outside of the roofline.
Miller Lite Oasis 11,400 Miller Lite Oasis during "joan" concert, 2021.jpg Completed in 2006. 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 was 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.
Generac Power Stage 11,000 Harley-Davidson Roadhouse Stage during "Bleachers" concert.jpg Previously known as Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, it was renovated in 2008. In 2021, it was renovated and renamed Generac Power Stage.
Briggs and Stratton Big Backyard 8,600 Briggs ^ Stratton Big Backyard - panoramio.jpg In 2011, a renovated Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard stage opened. Its capacity ranges from 6,000 to 8,000.
U.S. Cellular Connection Stage 5,700 Third Eye Blind concent, U.S. Cellular Connection Stage.jpg Renovated in 2018, the U.S. Cellular® Connection Stage provides a view of Lake Michigan, a 25-foot LED screen – the largest screen on the grounds, benches with charging amenities along the lakefront, a new bar area, and improved walkway access for fans. iHeartMedia, including FM 106.1, is the media partner of the stage.
Uline Warehouse 7,300 Uline Warehouse stage, Summerfest.jpg Located on the north end of the grounds, the Uline Warehouse stage was rebuilt in 2019. The stage features a mix of acts from various genres including classic rock, country, hard rock, blues, and jam.
Johnson Controls World Sound Stage 3,200 The Johnson Controls World Sound Stage lineup hosts a mix of acts spanning genres including R&B, blues, world beat, and soul.
JoJo's Martini Lounge Located near the American Family Insurance Amphitheater, JoJo's Martini Lounge with Miller Lite is a popular hot spot, offering JoJo's specialty martinis and great local entertainment.
Klement's Sausage and Beer Garden The Klement's Sausage and Beer Garden stage, located on the North End of Henry Maier Festival Park, features acoustic music daily, spotlighting local artists. Modeled as a "backyard" picnic-style area, there is a seated lounge area, picnic tables, and barbeque grills, as well as locations to purchase Klement's products.
Gruber Law Offices Sportszone Located near the Mid Gate along the lakefront it is the ultimate place for sports fans. The area offers interactive daily programming including sports demonstrations from professional teams, children's games, and health and fitness activities.
South Pavilion 2,700 Hosts no permanent stage.
Other N/A Other venues include the Tiki Hut, the Ground Floor Stage, the 2nd Floor Stage, and the "DIY" Rebel Stage.

Concert history year by year

Summerfest has been most famous for its music 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 Jackson 5, Frank Sinatra, Prince, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, The Jonas Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Maroon 5, Fun, Britney Spears, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Cher, Tina Turner, and James Taylor to Christina Aguilera, Diana Ross, Roy Orbison, Liza Minnelli, Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Blige, Wiz Khalifa, Imagine Dragons, Nine Inch Nails, The Ramones, Billie Eilish, Willie Nelson, The Rolling Stones, and Paul McCartney 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.

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.

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 also become a frequent performer at Summerfest.

Recent performers

Year Performers Notes
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. The Rolling Stones performed their first Milwaukee concert in 10 years as part of the Zip Code Tour.
2016 Selena Gomez, Pitbull, Blake Shelton, Chris Stapleton, Tim McGraw, Blink-182, Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon, Luke Bryan, Paul McCartney, Weezer, Panic! at the Disco, Sting, and Peter Gabriel.
2017 Red Hot Chili Peppers, Luke Bryan, Brothers Osborne, Paul Simon, Zac Brown Band, P!nk, The Chainsmokers, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Chris Stapleton, 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, A Day to Remember, Atmosphere, Walk the Moon, Shinedown, Andy Grammer, Third Eye Blind, The Band Perry, Philip Phillips, Collective Soul, Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, Tonic, Soul Asylum, Los Lonely Boys, Peter Frampton, Huey Lewis & the News, Toto, REO Speedwagon, and John Waite.
2018 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, A Flock Of Seagulls, Shawn Mendes with Charli XCX, Marshmello, Lil Uzi Vert, Steven Tyler, Kesha, Jason Isbell and the 400 unit, Aless, The Flaming Lips, Pixies, Greta Van Fleet, Foster the People, Billie Currington, Janelle Monáe, Jethro Tull, Tory Lanez, Kip Moore, Kaleo, The Neighbourhood, Rachel Platten, Louis the Child, PHANTOGRAM, Cheap Trick, Grizzly Bear, Spoon, Borns, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Fray, Buddy Guy, Kane Brown, Slightly Stoopid, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Cheat Codes, Chromeo, O.A.R., Jon Batist with The Dap-Kings, GoldLink, Machine Gun Kelly, Timeflies, Nelly, Brett Young, Benjamin Booker, Capital Cities, Judah & The Lion, Victor Manuelle, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, Social Distortion, Gavin DeGraw, Echosmith, Rick Springfield, and more.
2019 Thomas Rhett with Dustin Lynch & Russell Dickerson, Willie Nelson & Family, Phil Lesh and Friends, The Avett Brothers, Counting Crows, Alison Krauss, Dawes, Trapper Schoepp, Jason Aldean with Kane Brown and Carly Pearce, Bon Iver with Lord Huron & Julien Baker, Zac Brown Band with Drake White, Lionel Richie with Michael McDonald, Jennifer Lopez, The Killers with Death Cab for Cutie, Lil Wayne, Billie Eilish, Snoop Dogg, ScHoolboy Q, Chicago, Foreigner, Loverboy, Styx, 38 Special, Jason Mraz, Walk the Moon, Third Eye Blind, Jimmy Eat World, 3 Doors Down, X Ambassadors, Switchfoot, Skillet, and Collective Soul, Brandi Carlile, Cole Swindell, The Head and the Heart, The Lonely Island, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Lizzo, The National, Steve Aoki, Brothers Osborne, Young The Giant, Sublime with Rome, Courtney Barnett, Quinn XCII, Atmosphere, T-Pain, Vic Mensa, Taking Back Sunday, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Dashboard Confessional, Judah & the Lion, Catfish and the Bottleman, Chaka Khan, Frenship, Chris Janson, Elle King, Gryffin, Dispatch, Chase Rice, August Burns Red, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Hanson, LANCO, Daya, Chelsea Cutler, lovelytheband, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Semisonic, COIN, La Sonora Poncena, The Roots, Matoma, Neon Trees, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Lake Street Dive, Ludacris, Los Lonely Boys, Jimmy Allen, and more.
2021 Luke Bryan with Dylan Scott, REO Speedwagon, T-Pain, Chance the Rapper with 24kGoldn and Teezo Touchdown, Leon Bridges, Berlin, Night Ranger, Falling in Reverse, Better Than Ezra, Twenty One Pilots, Styx, Shaggy, Rise Against, Flo Rida, Vince Neil, Chris Stapleton with Sheryl Crow, Joan Jett DJ Jazzy Jeff, Everclear, George Thorogood, Zac Brown Band with Gabby Barrett, Goo Goo Dolls, Jefferson Starship, O.A.R., G-Eazy, The Sugarhill Gang, Nelly, Jesse McCartney, Dave Chappelle, Kesha, Manchester Orchestra, Toad the Wet Sprocket, 311, ZZ Top, Living Colour, Megan Thee Stallion with Polo G, Dropkick Murphys, Fitz and the Tantrums, Diplo, Spin Doctors, Ludacris, Miley Cyrus with Wiz Khalifa, Charlie Wilson, ... Furs, Run the Jewels, Guns N' Roses with Mammoth WVH, Black Pumas, Flaming Lips, Sheila E.
2022 Jason Aldean with Gabby Barrett and John Morgan, Big Boi, Pop Evil, Steve Aoki, Barenaked Ladies, Modest Mouse, Steve Miller Band, Violent Femmes, Dillon Francis, Lita Ford, Lil Wayne with Wiz Khalifa and Wu-Tang Clan, Disturbed with Lamb of God, Chevelle, and New Medicine, The Fixx, Todd Rundgren, Machine Gun Kelly with Avril Lavigne and Iann Dior, Stone Temple Pilots, Alessia Cara, Howard Jones, Modern English, 2 Chainz, Blue Öyster Cult, Halsey with The Marías and Abby Roberts, Third Eye Blind, KC and the Sunshine Band, Village People, Taking Back Sunday, Lupe Fiasco, Commodores, Rod Stewart with Cheap Trick, John Fogerty, Boyz II Men, Backstreet Boys, Charli XCX, The Black Crowes, A Flock of Seagulls, Thomas Rhett, Sister Hazel, Rick Springfield, For King & Country, Dante Bowe.
2023 Eric Church with Elle King, Zac Brown Band, James Taylor with Sheryl Crow, Dave Matthews Band, Odesza, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie with Trippie Redd and City Girls, Zach Bryan, Imagine Dragons with AJR.
2024 Kane Brown with Kameron Marlowe and Nightly, Mötley Crüe with Buckcherry and Seether, Tyler Childers with S.G. Goodman and Adeem the Artist, Keith Urban with Needtobreathe and Alana Springsteen, AJR with Carly Rae Jepsen and Mxmtoon, Maroon 5, Lil Uzi Vert with Lil Yachty, JID, Rico Nasty, and Lihtz.

Opening headliners

Year Headliner Notes
1968 George Jessel
1969 Dolly Parton
1970 Sly and the Family Stone
1971 Mountain
1972 The Doors Sans Jim Morrison, who died in 1971.
1973 Steve Miller Band
1974 Johnny Cash
1975 The Beach Boys
1976 The Band
1977 Willie Nelson
1978 Grateful Dead Rained out—they never played nor traveled to the fest.
1979 Charles Aznavour and Jane Olivor
1980 Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina
1981 George Thorogood and The Destroyers
1982 Santana
1983 Eric Clapton
1984 Huey Lewis and the News
1985 Bryan Adams
1986 The Go-Go's and INXS
1987 Paul Simon
1988 Sting
1989 Richard Belzer
1989 Rod Stewart
1990 Cher
1991 Whitney Houston
1992 Metallica
1993 Bon Jovi
1994 Janet Jackson
1995 Pearl Jam
1996 Alanis Morissette
1997 Dave Matthews Band
1998 Shania Twain
1999 Paul Simon and Bob Dylan
2000 Britney Spears
2001 Destiny's Child
2002 Nine Inch Nails
2003 Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban
2004 Prince
2005 John Mellencamp
2006 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Pearl Jam
2007 Steely Dan
2008 Stevie Wonder
2009 Bon Jovi and Lynyrd Skynyrd
2010 Tim McGraw
2011 Peter Gabriel
2012 Rascal Flatts and Lady Antebellum
2013 The Avett Brothers and Violent Femmes
2014 Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga
2015 Florida Georgia Line and The Rolling Stones
2016 Selena Gomez
2017 Red Hot Chili Peppers
2018 Imagine Dragons
2019 Jennifer Lopez
2020 None Cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic
2021 Fall Out Boy, Green Day, and Weezer with KennyHoopla
2022 Jason Aldean
2023 Eric Church with Elle King

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Summerfest para niños

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