JOURNAL: Summerfest Rewind

Electronic+musician+and+DJ+Dillon+Francis+hypes+up+the+Summerfest+crowd+on+June+24%2C+2022.

Photo by Sarah Kuhns

Electronic musician and DJ Dillon Francis hypes up the Summerfest crowd on June 24, 2022.

For 54 years, Summerfest has been bringing pounding beats, buzzing atmospheres and unbridled joy to its audience. Everything from rock and pop to rap and trap, the city has been exposed to it all.

The festival’s wide range of genres and artists keeps the audience coming back for more, in addition to the various discounts and opportunities for students. Sophie Lynch, a junior in the College of Nursing, has been going to Summerfest since her sophomore year of high school and she’s seen more shows than she can remember. 

“I remember having a lot of fun seeing Foster the People. I went with two of my siblings and a handful of our friends,” Lynch says. “I remember afterwards just bonding with our friends, stopping at McDonald’s on the way back and staying out later on a late-night drive.”

The festival has changed greatly throughout the years, especially with last year’s celebrations being pushed to the fall. Alum Jamie McKeough, who graduated from Marquette with a degree in psychology in 1991, recalls how the schedule for Summerfest has changed since she attended college.  

“Summerfest used to be one 2-week long party, not just a weekend thing. You would run into the most random people there and just party on the lawn together,” McKeough says. “The weekend schedule may be an advantage to someone who doesn’t live in Milwaukee.”

Despite all the differences from past Summerfests, Lynch believes there has been one constant the entire time she has been attending.

“I haven’t looked at ticket prices, but to my knowledge, they haven’t really gone up much,” Lynch says. “Going for so many years, I remember spending like $20-25 for the general admission and I think it’s still around that price.”

While the ticket prices haven’t changed in recent years, there are some notable differences from the past. McKeough remembers going to Summerfest while she was attending Marquette. 

“In the 80s and 90s every day had a promotion that let allowed you to get in free, but the best part was that the lawn was free in the pavilion, you just had to get a hand stamp first thing in the morning when you got there,” McKeough says. “So you would get up early, get in the gates at opening and run to the pavilion for your hand stamp and then just wander during the day.”

However, there are still chances for these types of bargains. Marquette teamed up with Summerfest to offer a day of free admission for anyone that wore their merch, and Lynch received a free ticket from Metro Mart for spending more than $25.

Summerfest’s lineup this year is full of bands who rocked the stage in the 70s, 80s and 90s. While that might not fully appeal to the younger generation, alumni and parents alike are elated to hear their favorite bands from their college years.

McKeough recalls being surprised to see The Cult on this year’s schedule. A popular band from the 80s, The Cult falls right in alongside other established acts such as Howard Jones or Modern English.

While the lineup showcases bands for a more mature audience, there are also newer musicians on the list. Ambar Lucid and Mt. Joy, are two smaller artists that fit more into an indie, folk, alternative sort of category, and they cater towards a younger crowd.

One of Summerfest’s 2022 headliners was Justin Bieber, but unfortunately, he canceled his performance after being diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. Bieber explained that he was experiencing facial paralysis because of the disease which inhibits his ability to perform.

Evelyn Gabriel, a sophomore in the College of Nursing, thinks that Bieber’s late cancelation might have affected the number of people attending the festival. 

“I know a lot of people literally just got tickets to see Bieber, so if they’re not going to see any general admission people, they probably won’t go,” Gabriel says.

While Summerfest focuses on the music and performances, it has a tendency to bring more traffic into the city. McKeough believes that the festival gives the citizens something to look forward to, and it encourages them to get out and experience all that the city has to offer. Gabriel shares this sentiment.

“I think that whenever Milwaukee has any event like a Brewers game or a Bucks game, downtown is just so busy, and with the grounds so close, I feel like people just naturally flow over there,” Gabriel says.

Summerfest has been intertwined with the Milwaukee community for the last 54 years and has created memories for people who are old, young and everything in between. There’s no telling how it will change over the next 54 years, but the city of Milwaukee will be there to celebrate the music.

 

This story was written by Izzy Fonfara-Drewel. She can be reached at isabella.fonfaradrewel@marquette.edu.