Phantoms of Summerfest


After the news of the cancellation, I decided to take a run down to the grounds again. As I entered the northern pedestrian gate, I could hear Gloria Gaynor being piped through a speaker deep within. This phantom-of-what-would-have-been turned out to be a selection of one of the grounds crew work tunes. The rhythm of “I Will Survive” echoed through the stages I passed.

Sky ride skeleton. 4 June 2020. Photo by the author.
BMO Harris Stage. 4 June 2020. Photo by the author.

I pass by the BMO Harris stage, listening to the lakeshore birds flit about the rafters. Once one of many free stages, this stage began charging small fees to sit in the front rows. I have wondered if this was to be a model for other stages…

Looking out. 4 June 2020. Photo by the author.

As I leave, I pass by the entrance and the ULINE stage. ULINE is the company owned by Liz and Dick Uihlein, among the most influential conservatives in American politics.

ULINE. 4 June 2020. Photo by the author.

What to make of this: the sponsor of this recently renovated stage promoting politicians whose policies caused – in no small part- the cancellation of this festival?

How will Summerfest come to terms with this? As a (dubiously endowed) no-profit, how will organizers respond to the pandemic in the long term? The mass consumption that entities like Milwaukee World Festival Inc. need to survive has been exposed as non-essential. Those that worried about their compromised freedoms and liberties – a good number of whom attend Summerfest I’d reckon – are engaging in activities that are only erodinng those values further. What will become of this?

Maybe 2021 will deliver.

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