It's a summer-long party in Milwaukee

Summerfest, on Milwaukee's lakefront, is the world's largest music festival.

Say this about Milwaukeeans: They know how to throw a party.

And with June just around the corner, Milwaukee 's summer-long party is about to begin.

From June into September, no matter when you visit this city hugging the western shore of Lake Michigan, there seems to be a festival every weekend. The most famous, of course, is Summerfest , billed as the world's largest music festival.

That's not an overstatement — 700 bands and artists are scheduled to perform during the festival's 11 days this year (June 27-July 1 and July 3-8).

Now in its 45th year, Summerfest headline acts are the big names: Foo Fighters, Aerosmith, Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown Band, the Beach Boys. But for real music fans, the secondary stages scattered around the grounds are where the action is: Fountains of Wayne, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Kellie Pickler, Gary Clark Jr., the Avett Brothers, Ben Folds Five, and veteran artists such as Joe Walsh, Ziggy Marley and the B-52s. And it doesn't end there. Dozens of emerging bands and artists also perform.


Summerfest and Milwaukee's other major festivals take place on the Henry Maier (he was the Milwaukee mayor who started Summerfest) Festival Grounds on the Lake Michigan shore. By setting Summerfest at the lakefront, Milwaukee gets to show off one of its best assets. Just make sure to bring a jacket if a breeze is blowing in off the lake.

All summer long

While Summerfest is the grandaddy of Milwaukee festivals, it's hardly the only attraction of the summer. In fact, the Maier Festival Grounds are hopping all summer long.  Here's a look at this year's schedule:

Pridefest , June 8-10, celebrates LGBT pride with food, exhibits, a marketplace and concerts by Belinda Carlisle, Taylor Dayne and Berlin. This year marks Pridefest's 25th anniversary.

Polish Fest , June 15-17, celebrates Milwaukee's substantial Polish-American population and is billed as America's largest Polish festival. Enjoy traditional dance groups, cultural exhibits, folk art demonstrations and all the kielbasa you can eat. A special feature at this year's festival is an exhibit, "Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews," from the Galicia Jewish Museum, Krakow.

Festa Italiana , July 19-22. Music, dance, and a parade, sure, but the big attraction here is the food from Milwaukee's many fine Italian restaurants. Best advice: starve yourself for a few days in advance.

German Fest , July 26-29. This is North America's largest annual German festival, but you'll quickly forget you're even in North America when surrounded by Bavarian brass bands, imported gifts, chocolate tortes and, of course, beer. Simply not to be missed by anyone who has an ounce of German heritage.

African World Festival , Aug. 4-5, includes a marketplace, ethnic foods, a children's village and cultural demonstrations.


Irish Fest , Aug. 16-19, is where it's easy being green. Several stages of Irish music and dance are complemented by arts and cultural exhibits and even Irish comedy shows.

Mexican Fiesta , Aug. 24-26, is where you'll find roaming mariachi bands, traditional dancers and plenty of great food.

Indian Summer Festival , Sept. 7-9, celebrates Wisconsin's American Indian heritage. Here you'll find tribal villages, storytellers, traditional crafts, a pow wow and games of lacrosse. An ideal way to end the summer season.


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