Milwaukee celebrates beloved green ogre Shrek


Photo by Phoebe Goebel

Shrek Fest took place in Humboldt Park Sept. 3. The crowd participated in Shrek-centered activities and bought Shrek-related goods.

Everyone in Humboldt Park stood up, removed their hats and prepared for the national anthem. But this wasn’t your typical “Star-Spangled Banner” event. Instead, a woman sat with her ukulele and began to play “All-Star” by Smash Mouth. The crowd joined in by humming and singing the lyrics, and a moment of peace and acceptance overcame the festival.

Although a narrow interest, Shrekfest Milwaukee was filled with different people from all walks of life. For every medieval villager couple wandering the grounds, there was a group of 18 to 24-year-old males cracking open a case of beer and taking in the live music. The only thing everybody truly had in common at Shrekfest was that they were at Shrekfest.

Shrekfest Milwaukee took place at Humboldt Park Sept. 3. The festival began at 3 p.m. and consisted of activities, vending stands, food trucks and more until 9:30 p.m. The festival is hosted by 3GI Industries, which explains Shrekfest as “an annual celebration of love and life featuring the main ogre himself, Shrek.”

Anthony Livingston, a Shrekfest attendee, came to the festival in costume covered in green paint. Livingston has been a longtime fan of Shrek and has shown his support for the movie through his yearly trip to Shrekfest. He said that he found Shrekfest through 3GI’s social media platforms and couldn’t resist attending the first ever Shrekfest.

“The people who run it, 3GI, have a cool YouTube channel and that’s how I found out about it. It was niche, and only 20-ish people went to the first Shrekfest. It’s grown so much since then. It’s crazy to now see all the food trucks and tents that come to this event,” Livingston said. The first Shrekfest was in 2014, and took place in Madison, Wisconsin.

Livingston explained how what started as an online viral sensation in honor of a beloved cartoon character, became a family-friendly celebration of local business, music and art.

At one area of the festival, crowds stood in long lines outside of tents to visit the vendors. There was a variety of products and art that the vendors offered, both on and off the Shrek theme. One of the vendors, Albert Fortnint, sat at a stand where he was selling products such as stickers and pins, all which featured his own artwork.

Fortnint said that this was both his first time at Shrekfest as well as his first time ever vending at a festival. Before the event, Fortnint only sold his merchandise online. He said that he really enjoyed being able to sell to people in person, especially with the environment that the festival provided.

“One of the organizers reached out to me and asked if I wanted to booth here. I went for it. Shrekfest as my first is a good time,” Fortnint said. “If I’m allowed to come back next year, I absolutely would. This place is awesome.”

Even though some of the attendees were longtime Shrekfest enthusiasts, some people were there for the first time. Josie Balcerzak, a festival attendee, was at Shrekfest for the first time and was not disappointed with the event’s offerings.

“We have a friend who has been going for years and he’s recruiting all of us. Finally, this year we could make it,” Balcerzak said.

She said that Shrekfest is so appealing because of how much everyone loves the movie. Shrek, which was released in 2001, took the movie industry by storm. It became the fourth-highest grossing film of 2001 and grossed over $487 million worldwide. Even after 21 years, the movie is still a fan favorite, as seen through the number of attendees at Shrekfest.

“I mean it’s a classic. Shrek must be on the top 15 list of greatest movies of all time,” Balcerzak said. “The people are committed and it’s awesome to see. You’ve got the ears; you’ve got the paint. People are going all out.”

Although not everyone at the festival was costumed, and even less ready to step on stage for the onion eating contest (a whole raw onion at that), Balcerzak said that there was not a frown in sight. While some came in groups and some came alone, she said the crowd gathered at Shrekfest Milwaukee was as welcoming as any you could find across the whole country.

3GI said that Shrekfest will continue happening, no matter the circumstances. “This is only the beginning,” it says on the Shrekfest website.

This story was written by Phoebe Goebel. She can be reached at [email protected] RJ Siano contributed to this article.