The vision for Summerfest was the brainchild of the late Mayor Henry Maier in the 1960s. Following a visit to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, Mayor Maier dreamed of a festival for the people that would revitalize Milwaukee's downtown and bring the community together. In 1968, the first Summerfest debuted at 35 separate locations throughout the city.
In 1970, the festival moved to Milwaukee's lakefront, specifically to an abandoned 15-acre Nike missile site. Stages consisted of wooden platforms raised on concrete blocks. By the middle of the decade, however, permanent stages and structures began making an appearance and more aesthetic improvements were made. By the 1980s, more permanent stages and structures appeared on the grounds, a long-term lease agreement was reached with the City of Milwaukee and the future of Summerfest was bright. In 1983, turnstiles were added at the admission gates allowing for accurate attendance tracking. In 1983, 657,429 patrons attended Summerfest and by the end of the decade that number rose to 830,500. In 1987 the Marucs Amphitheater, a 23,000-seat, state-of-the-art entertainment venue opened and would soon be host to the top touring acts in the world.
Over the years, the permanent 75-acre festival site has seen tremendous growth and enhancements, including capital improvements, new partners, vendors and exhibits.
The 50th edition of Summerfest in 2017 will celebrate the distinctive history of one of the longest running music festivals in the world. With deep roots in the local community, an unmatched list of iconic artists who make up its history and a world-class festival venue, Summerfest 2017 promises to blend the festival’s unique past with a blockbuster line-up and special events honoring 50 years of music, food and fun.
Summerfest 2017 – the festival’s 50th edition – will take place June 28 – July 2 and July 4 – July 9 from noon until midnight and will be closed Monday, July 3. Following its 1968 debut, Summerfest has evolved into what is now recognized as “The World’s Largest Music Festival®” and Milwaukee’s cornerstone summer celebration, hosting the music industry’s hottest stars, emerging talent and local favorites along with approximately 850,000 people from Milwaukee and around the world each year for an unforgettable live music experience. During the festival, the spotlight shines on over 800 acts, over 1,000 performances, 11 stages, delectable food and beverages and interactive activities, all in a world-class festival setting. Patrons can also enjoy Miller Lite, the Official Beer of Summerfest. For more details, visit Summerfest.com,Facebook.com/summerfest or Twitter: @Summerfest.
Summerfest is run by 501 ©3 organization, Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., which was founded in 1968 and now operates Summerfest and approximately one dozen cultural and ethnic festivals. Each year the festival employs more than 2,200 seasonal workers. Summerfest Foundation, Inc. supports the initiatives of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. which are charitable and educational and showcase the performing arts.
Kerri Brusca / Shore Fire Media / email@example.com
President & Chief Executive Officer
Donald Smiley became Milwaukee World Festival, Inc.’s first President/ Chief Executive Officer in June of 2004. Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. was founded in 1968 and now operates Summerfest, “The World’s Largest Music Festival”, and approximately one dozen cultural and ethnic festivals. Among other charitable board commitments, Don is an active member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Board of Directors.
Don is a seasoned veteran of the sports, entertainment, and marketing industry. He is the former president of the Florida Marlins Baseball Club, and he helped lead the team to a World Series victory in 1997. Don began his career with the Marlins at the team’s inception and held positions in the sales department and as vice president of marketing. Don also served as the Chairman of Pro Player Stadium, where he was responsible for event management during the 1995 NFL Super Bowl, professional football and baseball games, major stadium concerts and other events.
Additionally, Don was involved with Blockbuster Entertainment Corp. at its beginning stages. While at Blockbuster, Don served as an assistant to the Chairman of the Board, and he also worked with the franchising, real estate, merchandising operations and marketing. He led a number of the company’s early marketing and branding programs, and helped grow Blockbuster into a position of world leadership in the video rental and entertainment industry.
Don has also successfully served as executive director of the Honda Classic golf tournament, one of the top events on the PGA tour, and as vice president of marketing for Huizenga Holdings reporting directly to famed entrepreneur H. Wayne Huizenga.
Don grew up in Racine, Wisconsin and is a graduate of St. Catherine’s High School. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
Vice President of Entertainment
A 40 year veteran of Milwaukee World Festivals Inc., Bob manages a $6,000,000.00 talent budget for Milwaukee Summerfest. In addition to leading the music production team during Summerfest, he oversees the music portion of events held on the Summerfest grounds, including The Marcus Amphitheater, throughout the summer season. He has booked talent for many of the Harley Davidson Anniversary events, as well as the Tempe Music Festival. He has worked with acts as diverse as Jimmy Buffett, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, No Doubt, Kanye West, Tina Turner, Prince, Dave Matthews, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, and Jason Aldean, to name a few.