Claimed to be the largest music festival in the world, Summerfest has always been a highlighted event in my past. Endless people, endless music, fireworks, and a niche for everyone, Wisconsin’s Summerfest seems to be one of the greatest of all time. Through the recent years however, it seems that Summerfest hasn’t fulfilled the expectations like I once remembered. Is it even worth the gate charge anymore?
As a teenager, Summerfest was probably one of the greatest experiences of all time. I would drive hours each and every day after work in order to meet up with friends in Milwaukee and join in on the festivities. It was something that I looked forward to months before it happened and remained sad about its ending months after it was over. Every moment on the grounds was just amazing to me.
Wether it was for the fireworks, the music, the women, or all three wrapped up into one beautiful package and presented into one generous location, the appeal just always seemed to present itself.
Eventually my schooling took me to a location in which I was unable to attend Summerfest for the next three years. While I didn’t like the idea of this, I had to convince myself that there were far more important things out there than a music festival.
Upon my recent return into the United States, once again the time approached. The fourth of July was fast approaching and the marketing campaign for the summer festival had begun. As I began to browse the web page, the first thing that I noticed was that the lineup just didn’t appeal much in my eyes. I found only a select few bands that I was simply content with seeing.
Unable to fight the urge, I decided I was going to attend Summerfest even though I could find only one show that I was excited for. As I arrived, the first thing that I noticed was an absolutely overcrowded entrance gate. I had never seen anything like this before. The lines we long and seemingly endless. So long that people began to become confused as to what was the line and what wasn’t. This made for frustration, fights, and much tension amongst crowd goers before they could even enter the gate. The grounds finally saw this growing problem and countered it by letting hundreds of people in quickly and for free. Even though I had already purchased my ticket, it was a nice gesture.
Arriving into the grounds, I was met with the exact same thing. The most crowded conditions I had ever seen in my entire experience. Obviously just because I wasn’t liking the lineup, didn’t mean it wasn’t good. I finally became so frustrated with the walking conditions that I began to take the sky glide in order to scope out the situation. While riding and observing the crowds below I noticed that two of the adjacent stages were absolutely packed to the brim while several other stages remained at almost half capacity. This is when I realized that someone had messed up with the stage planning here. Something should have been done a little better when assessing the band popularity and expected crowd numbers.
Inevitably as the night went on, the drinks went down, and the people began to tense up due to the overcrowded conditions. I witnessed several fights, several physical conflicts, and absolutely countless heated verbal conflicts. I witnessed all of this happening with absolutely zero intervention from grounds authority figures. I was literally watching innocent and non-involved bystanders being subjected to physical harm simply because the crowds were too rampant to allow them to escape nearby conflict. Several people threatened harm in my direction as well simply because I was constantly being pushed from the back straight into the people standing ahead of me.
I know, if I go to a festival like this I should expect crowds. Trust me I do. In fact, I usually envy the opportunity to be amongst such things, but calling this Summerfest crowded is a severe understatement. The grounds turned into an angry mob shrouded with conflict. No one around seemed to be having any fun at all. Had the people been given a common cause, there is no question in my mind that Milwaukee’s largest riot would have quickly ensued.
Looking back on it all though, I can never really tell. Would I have cared about fights, security presence, verbal conflict, and over-crowding a few years back? Have I just now started caring for the things I once turned a blind eye toward? I guess sometimes I can’t really tell if it’s the event that it changing or if it’s me simply growing up. Both of which seem equally scary.