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Festival Guide

Apr. 9, 2010
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Lakefront Fireworks | Photo by Geri Laehn


Elkhorn Antique Flea Market

May 16, June 27, Aug. 8, Sept. 26

Walworth County Fair Grounds, Highway 11, Elkhorn, www.nlpromotionsllc.com, 525-0820

Join throngs of Sunday treasure hunters as they sift through the wares of more than 500 indoor and outdoor vendors at the 29th annual Elkhorn Antique Flea Market.


Jazz in the Park

June 3-Sept. 23

Thursdays, 6:30-9 p.m.

Cathedral Square Park, 271-1416, www.easttown.com

This weekly summer mainstay draws the Midwest’s finest jazz players. Bring your own picnic treats, or sample food and wine from local vendors, and enjoy cool jazz in the summer heat.

Verge Music Festival

June 4-5

Henry Maier Festival Park, www.vergemusicfestival.com.

The inaugural Verge Music Festival kicks off summer with a lineup of national and local acts. Brought to you by the same folks who put on Summerfest, the new mini-fest offers advance two-day passes for $40.

Miller Lite Ride for the Arts

June 6

Downtown Milwaukee, 276-RIDE, www.millerliteride.com

Strap on your bike helmet and support the United Performing Arts Fund at the 30th annual Ride for the Arts. Choose from a 5-, 12-, 25-, 65- or 75-mile-long ride that begins and ends at the Summerfest grounds. Participants can enjoy food and entertainment at the finish line.

Scottish Fest / Milwaukee Highland Games

June 5

Hart Park, 422-9235, www.milwaukeescottishfest.com

Scottish Fest features a host of authentic entertainment from the Highlands, including bagpipe, drum and dance performances. Grab a meat pie, don your favorite kilt, and join the festivities in the Parade of Tartans.

Bead & Button Show

June 6-13

Midwest Airlines Center, 800-554-0197, www.beadandbuttonshow.com

At the “biggest bead show in the country,” patrons can choose from a menu of more than 480 classes at all skill levels.

Westown’s River Rhythms

June 9-Aug. 25

Wednesdays, 6:30-9 p.m.

Pere Marquette Park, 276-6696, www.westown.org

Don’t miss Milwaukee’s “fastest growing music festival” every Wednesday. This year’s lineup promises a host of local acts guaranteed to make the rest of your workweek a little easier to stomach.


June 11-13

Henry Maier Festival Park, 272-3378, www.pridefest.com

Celebrating the diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender culture and community, this three-day event features local LGBT-friendly merchants and food vendors, engaging performers and a pageant. Headlining a stellar lineup of entertainment this year are Joan Rivers, Kathy Griffin and Patti LaBelle.

Locust Street Festival

June 13

One of Milwaukee’s long-running street parties kicks off with a Beer Run past stages of live music, crafts, food and beer in Milwaukee’s hip Riverwest neighborhood (from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.).

Lakefront Festival of Arts

June 18-20

Milwaukee Art Museum grounds, 224-3854, lfoa.mam.org

Browse tents full of work from the area’s most talented artists in a variety of media while sampling food from local vendors. Stick around for live music performances before circling back to purchase that perfect piece to complete your living space.

Polish Fest

June 18-20

Henry Maier Festival Park, 273-3378, www.polishfest.org

Enjoy three days of authentic food, folk art, traditional dance and music performances. Dine on top-notch Polish sausages and other cultural fare, then kick up your heels to a rousing rendition of “Roll Out the Barrel.”

Juneteenth Day

June 19

Martin Luther King Drive between Burleigh and Center streets, 372-3770

Join in the festivities to commemorate the end of slavery at the annual Juneteenth Day celebration on Martin Luther King Drive. This year’s activities start off with a parade and end with a street fair complete with food and live entertainment.

Summer Soulstice

June 19


Celebrate the longest day of the year with great bands on multiple stages from noon-11 p.m. Past years have included BMX demonstrations, dodgeball and other family activities on Milwaukee’s East Side.


June 24-July 4

Henry Maier Festival Park, 273-2680, www.summerfest.com

The “world’s largest music festival” celebrates its 43rd anniversary in 2010 with local and national acts, as well as an overwhelming variety of Milwaukee’s best food vendors.

Greek Fest

June 25-27

Wisconsin State Fair Park, 800-884-FAIR, www.wistatefair.com

Patrons to this Greek extravaganza can expect cultural performances and top traditional fare, including baklava and all the spicy lamb chops you can eat.

Downer Classic

June 26


Revitalized Historic Downer Avenue plays host to a Pro Criterium urban bike race. A full day of activities includes a kids’ race and a Belgian Beer Festival, plus live music and family entertainment.

Cedarburg Strawberry Festival

June 26-27

Downtown Historic Cedarburg, 888-894-4001, www.cedarburgfestivals.org

Listen to live rock and bluegrass bands while you sample all things strawberry, from schaum tortes to wine, and then stroll down Washington Avenue for the art fair. Join in the Berry Big 5K run/walk on Saturday morning, and on Sunday grab a seat for the annual outdoor Strawberry Pancake Breakfast.


Glendale Days

July 2-4

Kletzsch Park, 228-1700, www.glendale-wi.org

This community celebration packs three days with traditional street festival fun, including live music, food and parades. Don’t miss the two nights of fireworks.

US Bank Fireworks

July 3

Veterans Park, 765-6500

Brew City natives have made the US Bank Fireworks a must-see Independence Day celebration. This year’s 60-minute pyrotechnic display promises a colorful show to rival past years.

Wauwatosa Independence Day Parade

July 5

Downtown Wauwatosa, 479-8900

What Fourth of July celebration would be complete without a parade? Beginning at 9 a.m., Wauwatosa’s annual Independence Day celebration showcases parade-and-fireworks festivities that have become a time-honored tradition.

Bastille Days

July 8-11

East Town (Jefferson Street Cathedral Square), 271-1416, www.easttown.com

Be sure to mark Bastille Days on your summer schedule. Start things off right by putting on your running shoes and storming the Bastille on Thursday night at the 5K run/2K walk. Then relax and enjoy a weekend of live Cajun, zydeco, jazz, blues, reggae, folk and rock performances.

Gathering on the Green

July 8 & 10

Mequon’s Rotary Park, 4000 W. Highland Road, 262-242-6187, www.gatheringonthegreen.org

This year’s Gathering on the Green features two evenings of memorable performances: Grammy-nominated jazz artist Tierney Sutton on Thursday, and the Milwaukee Ballet and the Florentine Opera on Saturday.

South Shore Frolics

July 9-11

South Shore Park, 2900 S. Shore Drive, www.south-shore-frolics.com

Bay View’s annual South Shore Frolics festival draws crowds from across Milwaukee for nightly fireworks, a classic small-town parade on Saturday morning and the South Shore Frolics Festival of the Arts on Sunday, along with kid-friendly games and activities and, of course, good food and live music.

Wheels & Heels

Rush on Festa

July 15

Henry Maier Festival Park, 384-4022, www.nsciasew.org

Support the National Spinal Cord Injury Association by joining the Wheels & Heels Rush on Festa this year. The 5K run is followed by a walk and a corporate chariot race.

Festa Italiana

July 15-18

Henry Maier Festival Park, 223-2808, www.festaitaliana.com

Whether you’re Italian or you just wish you were, Festa Italiana will make you gesture wildly and crave marinara. Check out nightly fireworks, rousing games of bocce, cultural exhibits and authentic Italian cuisine.

Garfield Avenue Blues, Gospel & Arts Festival

July 17

Garfield Avenue, between Fourth and Seventh streets, 223-4444

This lively street festival boasts tasty Southern fare, live entertainment with blues and gospel performances by local and national acts, an eclectic market and a host of kid-friendly street performers, including face painting and magic acts.

Port Fish Day

July 17

Port Washington, www.portfishday.com

More than 60,000 people are expected to flock to Port Washington for Fish Day, the “World’s Largest One Day Outdoor Fish Fry.” Listen to live music on a handful of stages, and don’t miss other Port Fish Day activities such as the parade, craft fair and fireworks.

Historic Cedarburg’s German Festival

July 17-18

Cedar Creek Park, Cedarburg, www.cedarburgfestivals.org

This free family event features traditional German food and drink, polka dancing and kids’ activities in picturesque downtown Cedarburg, a 20-minute drive north of Milwaukee.

German Fest

July 22-25

Henry Maier Festival Park, 464-9444, www.germanfest.com

The largest German celebration in North America, Milwaukee’s German Fest sports an array of entertainment and activities for the whole family.

Brady Street Festival

featuring Cheesefest

July 24

Along with a variety of local music and a fashion show featuring the wares of Brady Street vendors, this annual festival includes delicious food from award-winning Wisconsin cheese makers. Be sure to check out the art and jewelry vendors as well.

Armenian Fest

July 25

St. John the Baptist Armenian Orthodox Church, 7825 W. Layton Ave., 282-1670, www.stjohnarmenianchurch.org

From noon to 6 p.m., patrons can enjoy homemade Mediterranean dishes such as shish-kabob and baklava. After treating yourself to some live music from Near Eastern bands, head over to the culture booth to find out more about one of human history’s longest surviving civilizations.

EAA AirVenture

July 26-Aug. 1

Wittman Regional Airport, Oshkosh, (920) 426-4800, www.airventure.org

Travel to Oshkosh for an international gathering of 800,000-plus aviation enthusiasts. Attend a workshop or catch a lecture from a notable flight pro, then take a seat and look up at the daily Afternoon Air Show, where top-flight performers dazzle onlookers with aerial acrobatics.


Wisconsin State Fair

Aug. 5-15

Wisconsin State Fair Park, 1-(800) 884-FAIR, www.wistatefair.com

Now in its 159th year, the State Fair boasts 30 free stages featuring local and national acts, a host of exhibits, and enough food and shopping to keep you busy for days—11, to be exact. Did we mention there will be cream puffs?

Summer Sizzle: Historic Third Ward Jazz Festival

Aug. 6-7

Historic Third Ward, 100 & 200 blocks of North Broadway, 273-1173, www.historicthirdward.org

Stop by Milwaukee’s bustling Third Ward for its annual jazz festival. Visit two stages boasting top jazz artists while you snack on food from local vendors. Enjoy a marketplace loaded with arts, jewelry and other gifts from area artists.

Westown’s River Flicks

Aug. 6-27

Fridays, 7-11 p.m. Pere Marquette Park, 276-6696, www.westown.org

Who wants to spend a summer evening elbow to elbow in a dark theater, shivering from the A/C, just to see the latest blockbuster? Every Friday in August, ditch your planned trip to the local Cineplex and grab your picnic blanket for an outdoor movie at Pere Marquette Park.

Morning Glory Fine Craft Fair

Aug. 14-15

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, 273-7206, www.wdcc.org

This year’s craft fair features the work of more than 140 artists in ceramics, glass, leather, wood, photography, jewelry, fiber, enamel, handmade paper, metal and mixed media. Come to shop for handmade goods or gather ideas to challenge your own crafting abilities.

Irish Fest

Aug. 19-22

Henry Maier Festival Park, 476-3378, www.irishfest.com

Grab a pint and shop the marketplace featuring one of the largest gatherings of Irish vendors in the world, check out the Celtic canine center showcasing popular dog breeds in Ireland, join in a game of hurling or a tug-of-war match, or listen to traditional Irish tunes and contemporary music by Irish performers on more than a dozen stages.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel a la Carte

Aug. 19-22

Milwaukee County Zoo, 771-5500, www.milwaukeezoo.org

There’s no better way to spend a summer day than working up an appetite while watching animals from around the world and then participating in the “Feast With the Beasts!” Check out the polar bear exhibit, then sample the flavors of more than 25 area restaurants before strolling over to one of six stages to catch live music performances by local favorites and national acts.

Mexican Fiesta

Aug. 27-29

Henry Maier Festival Park, 383-7066, www.mexicanfiesta.org

Not that we need an excuse to sip on margaritas and munch on Mexican food, but Mexican Fiesta promises more than just three days of blissful eating and drinking. From traditional dancing to live salsa, mariachi and merengue music to interactive exhibits, this fiesta is a “must” on any summer schedule.

Walk & Run for Wishes

Aug. 28

Henry Maier Festival Park, (262) 781-4445, www.wisconsin.wish.org

All summer long, you kept saying, “Today is the day I’m going to start running.” Summer is almost over, but it’s not too late! Proceeds benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin.


Labor Fest

Sept. 6

Henry Maier Festival Park, 771-7070

Why brave busy highways congested with weekend warriors scrambling to get out of town? This Labor Day, ditch your plans for a road trip and stick around for a free festival complete with a parade, great food from local vendors, fun performances and music for all ages.


Sept. 10-11

76th and State streets, Wauwatosa, www.tosafest.org

This three-decade tradition is a community festival that draws crowds eager for two stages of music, great food, lively performances and fun activities for the whole family.

Kettle Moraine Jazz Festival

Sept. 10-11

Riverside Park, Highway 33 and Indiana Avenue, West Bend, 1-(877) 271-6903, www.kmjazz.com

Escape to the rolling hills of West Bend for an outdoor jazz festival. Enjoy food with a Southern and international flair from area restaurants while you browse handmade works from local artists in a variety of media.

Indian Summer Festival

Sept. 10-12

Henry Maier Festival Park, 604-1000, www.indiansummer.org

Listen to a traditional storyteller, watch a dance performance or game of lacrosse, and sample authentic foods at this celebration of American-Indian culture, past and present.


Sept. 10-12, 17-19, 24-26

Old Heidelberg Park, 462-9147, www.bavarianinnmilw.com

Spruce up your September by participating in a traditional Bavarian Oktoberfest, complete with Schuhplattler dancers, German food and beer, and live music each weekend after Labor Day.

Hidden River Art Festival

Sept. 17-19

Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, (262) 781-9470 www.hiddenriverartfestival.com

Discover the fine talent of more than 80 Wisconsin artists at this three-day juried art festival featuring painting, sculpture, photography, jewelry, ceramics and fiber art. Enjoy interactive art activities and delicious food and beverages.

Milwaukee River Challenge

Sept. 18

Pere Marquette Park, 223-6901, www.milwaukeeriverchallenge.com

If your back isn’t up to the challenge of rowing the 2.2-mile course, then join the throngs of spectators along the RiverWalk and watch crew teams race to the finish.

Cedarburg Wine & Harvest Festival

Sept. 18-19

Historic Downtown Cedarburg, (262) 377-9620, www.cedarburgfestivals.org

At the Wine & Harvest Festival, the streets of historic Cedarburg come alive with crowds sampling food and wine as they enjoy family activities and live music. Attendees can join the scarecrow-building contest and listen to live rock, bluegrass and folk music.

AIDS Walk Wisconsin

Sept. 19

Henry Maier Festival Park, 1-(800) 348-WALK, www.arcw.org

Support research to end AIDS by participating in this year’s AIDS Walk Wisconsin. Walkers can choose between a 5- or 10-kilometer course, each extending along Milwaukee’s beautiful lakefront. Supporting people who live with AIDS and enjoying the brisk fall air along Lake Michigan? Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Harvest Fair/World

Beef Expo

Sept. 24-26

Wisconsin State Fair Park, 266-7000, www.wistatefair.com

What autumn would be complete without a family hayride? Stop at State Fair Park for a weekend of live music, fresh harvest food and family-friendly entertainment. Don’t miss the World Beef Expo, held the same weekend on park grounds, where you can learn about the differences between different breeds of cattle and the science behind good beef.


Fine Furnishings& Fine Craft Shows

Oct. 2-3

Harley-Davidson Museum, 908-6001, www.finefurnishingsshows.com

Whether you are a homeowner looking to spruce up your drab living room, an art collector, an interior designer or an architect, don’t miss this fifth-annual event at the Garage in the Harley-Davidson Museum. Browse handcrafted furniture, accessories and art made by North America’s finest artists and craftsmen and craftswomen.

Milwaukee’s Lakefront Marathon

Oct. 3

Veterans Park, 291-2647, www.milwaukeelakefrontmarathon.org

Whatever your motivation, running a marathon takes more than a little preparation, so if you’re thinking of joining in the 30th annual Lakefront Marathon… start stretching. The run starts at Grafton High School and ends in Veterans Park.

Al’s Run & Walk for Children’s Hospital

Oct. 9

Downtown Milwaukee / Henry Maier Festival Park, 266-1520, www.alsrun.com

Support Children’s Hospital while testing your endurance with the 8-kilometer run, or enjoy a pleasant 5- or 3-mile walk. The event begins at 12th and Wisconsin on Marquette University’s campus, and concludes at the Henry Maier Festival Park. The finish-line celebration includes live entertainment and relief for weary walkers and runners.


Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival

Nov. 18-Jan. 2

Downtown Milwaukee, 220-4700, www.milwaukeedowntown.com

Take your family or loved one for a stroll through Milwaukee’s Downtown area this holiday season to enjoy roofline lighting, street-level decorations and parks with animated light displays.

Holiday Folk Fair International

Nov. 19-21

Wisconsin State Fair Park, 225-6225, www.folkfair.org

The fair features the arts and crafts, music, performances and traditions of more than 60 cultures from around the world. Stop by the World Café to sample flavors from a multitude of different countries and regions, peruse the International Bazaar for handmade gifts, and grab a seat at the Music Pavilion or All Nations Theater for an eye-opening performance.

Milwaukee Holiday Parade

Nov. 20

Downtown Milwaukee, (262) 377-5935

For more than 80 years, Milwaukeeans and families from surrounding communities have packed thermoses of hot chocolate and put on hats and mittens to watch the floats, bands, live animals and the man of the hour—Santa himself—at the annual Milwaukee Holiday Parade.


Christmas in the Ward

Dec. 3-4

Historic Third Ward, 273-1173, www.historicthirdward.org

Celebrate the holiday season in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. Enjoy seeing live reindeer, shaking hands with Santa, watching the tree-lighting ceremony and, of course, shopping.

They used to call Milwaukee the “City of Festivals.” The tag line has changed, but the idea remains true. Milwaukee hosts Summerfest, billed as the world’s largest music festival, and a series of extravaganzas on the lakefront. Neighboring West Allis is home to the Wisconsin State Fair. Beyond that tier of events lies a rich eco-system of church fairs, summer concert series and ethnic festivals—more than enough events to keep everyone busy during the warm months of the year and well into winter.


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