I love ...
- So many people having so much fun: Overlooking the ground on opening night, I stopped to soak it all in. Summerfest is Milwaukee's crowning moment, and thousands from in and out of town flock to this very special event. It's great to see so many people smiling – the logo really makes sense, actually.
- It's so cheap: There are a million ways to get into Summerfest for free, but even if you have to buy a ticket, it's a mere $8 or $15. Beer is actually quite reasonably priced, as is food. The Big Gig is an unbelievable value.
- A great place on a great lake: I drive along the lake every day, but I don't appreciate it enough. Henry Maier Festival Park practically forces you to pay attention to the greatest of Great Lakes, Lake Michigan. The view, the setting, the cool breeze ... it's perfect.
- The spillover effect: Bars and restaurants find themselves packed on weekdays as patrons wait for shuttles, and when they return, the party continues. You can feel the effect on the streets of Milwaukee, too. People seem to have an extra spring in their step.
- The grounds look great: Even though the new Marcus Amphitheater entrance has me a little turned around, it looks so nice. The new stage and bathrooms at the Briggs stage are equally impressive. I remember the days when the Summerfest grounds looked, well, dumpy. Those days are loooong gone.
- Public transportation: From shuttle to county buses, bikes to carpooling, Summerfest reminds Milwaukeeans about alternative transportation. If only we would remember these choices after the Big Gig is over.
- Proves Smallwaukee theory: How is that I inevitably run into at least five people I know each day at Summerfest, when I'm walking among thousands of strangers. Surely, this kind of Smallwaukee effect can't happen elsewhere, right?
- Stealth exercise: It doesn't feel like exercise while you're walking the grounds, but there's a reason your feet are sore the next morning. A few strolls back and forth and you've logged a couple of miles of walking. That's my kind of exercise.
- Acoustic shaping: I'm always impressed how Summerfest has managed to pump out so much music without it all blending together. Of course, wind and other factors can mess this up near the Amphitheater, but for the most part, the stages sound loud, clear and audibly distinct from their neighbors. This is no small feat.
- Great for our business, too: Last but not least, Summerfest season brings the most traffic of the year to OnMilwaukee.com. That translates into increased revenue, and makes our exhaustive coverage more than a labor of love. Just like Summerfest makes Milwaukee looks great, it's our time to shine, too. It's a lot of work to review all the shows we take in, as well as create fun new features and blogs each year, but it's well worth it.
I hate ...
- Drunken idiots: Fun-loving cup stackers aside, there's no shortage of immature dumbasses who treat this wonderful event like one giant drinking game. It's not like bad behavior is exclusive to Summerfest, but sometimes, usually in the bathrooms, it gets a little ugly. If you're gonna get hammered, please be a well-behaved drunk.
- It's too cheap: Summerfest is such a phenomenal bargain that it gets a little too crowded at times. I'm not advocating for a steep rise in ticket prices, but it would have the effect of thinning the crowds a little and reducing the number of drunken idiots (see above).
- Summerfest.com: This all-Flash site is slow, outdated and is borderline unusable. Fortunately, officials know this and are working on a relaunch. Too bad it's coming after Summerfest is over.
- Cell phone reception: I can't speak for all carriers, but AT&T, despite alleged network enhancements on site, remains horrible. Calls occasionally work, but data rarely does. That means spotty texting (and this is one place where texting is a must) and iffy social media. This is annoying for any fest goer, but for someone who needs to do some work from the grounds, it's totally unacceptable.
- Babies after dark: Parents, please find a babysitter and leave your infants at home at night. Summerfest is very family-friendly during the day, but at 11 p.m., it's no place for a baby. Seriously, your six-month old baby doesn't want her little eardrums blown out and would rather be sleeping in her crib.
"...it gets a little too crowded at times." You have to be kidding. It gets absurdly, and dangerously, overcrowded. When all the headlining bands finish at the same time, the colossal mob of sweaty, glassy-eyed people trying to get out of the Summerfest grounds can only shuffle miserably through the garbage, pushing and shoving and trying not to lose track of each other in the slow-motion mayhem. It is a filthy, embarrassing spectacle and a recipe for disaster. After last night's 40-minute slog from the amphitheater to the main gate, I will NEVER revisit Summerfest until they cap attendance to a sane number. It has not always been like this, and it doesn't need to be.
You'll never get the drunken idiots out of the equation, that's like getting them out of the bar scene or out of society or out of humanity in general. Won't happen. Most people don't have a heck of a lot of class. Some people with class and decency don't act on it. That's been more and more of the problem lately. The idiots have always been there, we used to beat them up more.
I helped a woman carry her stroller and baby down the pavillion staircase by the North Gate and that idiot scalping tickets said "Oh I was going to do that but I saw the young man coming up so..." Yeah right you dumb a-hole she was 3/4 of the way down the staircases when I got there.
LOVE how inexpensive Summerfest really is. I dropped $65 for one ticket to see one band recently. $15 for a full day of entertainment, that my friends is a deal!
Nothing wrong with stacking up a couple cups if you can behave like an adult, step up security enforcement and you can get rid of disorderly conduct and underage drinkers. If you are going to make it more pleasant, get rid of the smoke, or quarantine it away from the crowds. Every single show I've gone to, I've been bombarded by second hand smoke, and once you have a decent seat (or place to stand) to see a band, you really cannot relocate to avoid it.
Overall, Summerfest is one of the best things for this city. I go every chance I get, even on the 4th in the past. Keep the prices low, keep the people coming, and keep improving it (including that flash based website, and cell coverage). One of the best line-ups across the board this year. Kudos Summerfest.
I have US Cellular and have no problems with reception there for texting or calls. I agree about the little ones; no place for them there that late at night. I do think the younger teens have no clue what the Summerfest "etiquette" is about getting there at Noon and holding your row, which is a shame because people like me (in our 30s) don't much appreciate the last minute pushing and shoving to get to the front. While we all paid the same amount to get through the gate, there should be a level of respect for those who have toughed it out in the heat (some stages provide no shade - no complaining, just a fact) just to have someone try to ruin it is disheartening. This year, my friend and I have opted to just stand back away from it all and just watch from a distance. Would take someone really, REALLY interesting to get us up and close to the stage again, holding row like we did a few years ago for Heart. All in all, I love the fest and will continue to go. We cannot control the actions of others; can only control how we respond. I'm trying to just find different ways to enjoy the fest without the nuisances that can come with the crowd. Of course it helps if you can enjoy some of the emerging artists and forego some of the headliners - as that's where your biggest crowds will be - anytime after 8pm. ;)
although i can't say i love or hate a festival, it does seem like a decent one this year. i'm sure i'd go if i had access to a pimped out balcony, or if Beck was there. those scenarios are not likely, but that doesn't mean i'm not glad everyone else is having fun.
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