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Milwaukee Summerfest

Milwaukee SummerfestSummerfest is an annual music festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It takes place at the Henry Maier Festival Park, which consists of 75 acres of lakefront property. The festival includes 11 stages and runs for 11 days. Typically more than 700 bands give performances throughout the festival. Summerfest has been held from late June to early July since the mid-1970s. There is often a 4th of July festival date. Each year Summerfest draws 800,000 to one million people, earning it the distinction of "The World's Largest Music Festival" from the Guinness World Records since 1999.

Henry W. Maier, former Milwaukee mayor, came up with the concept for Summerfest in the 1960s. He was striving to recreate a themed event in Milwaukee that was like an Oktoberfest that he attended in Munich, Germany. He worked with the city to draw up festival plans from 1962 through 1968. The city presented the first Summerfest in 1968 with shows throughout Milwaukee including an air show, film festival, and pageant. The festival got its current location in 1970. This was the same year that Summerfest debuted the red logo that has become synonymous with the festival.

Summerfest is presented by the Milwaukee World Festival, which is a non-profit company. The festival offers a wide mix of both local and nationally famous musicians from many different genres. In addition to the music, Summerfest is also known for its outstanding cuisine from local Milwaukee restaurants. Other notable Summerfest events include shopping, comedy acts, family activities, and fireworks. Memorable comedic Summerfest shows include Bob Hope, George Carlin, Jon Stewart, Jay Leno, Lewis Black, and David Brenner.

All of the Summerfest performances are free with a festival ticket except for the Marcus Amphitheater featured shows. The live musical shows run from early afternoon to late at night. Many web sites and local businesses offer free and discounted tickets during the couple months preceding the festival.

The largest Summerfest theater is the Marcus Amphitheater, which has a 23,000 seat capacity. In 2012, Summerfest added the BMO Harris Pavilion to its set of stages to replace the temporary Classic Rock Stage. It holds 10,000 people and offers 5,000 seats. There is a video screen to provide viewing for standing room attendees.

Summerfest has never been the ethnic celebration that Henry Maier had in mind. However, his lakefront site is used for a number of ethnic themed festivals during the summer and fall including African World Festival, Arab World Fest, Asian Moon Festival, Festa Italiana, German Fest, Indian Summer, Irish Fest, Mexican Fiesta, and Polish Fest. A handful of charity events featuring runs or walks are also held at Henry Maier Festival Park.