Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. Announces Planning in Executive Leadership  | Shore Fire Media

SummerfestClient Information

3 June, 2022Print

Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. Announces Planning in Executive Leadership 

Don Smiley Remains CEO as Sarah Pancheri Promoted to President

MILWAUKEE, WI (June 3, 2022) – Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. (MWF) announced a new structure of executive leadership at a meeting of the non-profit organization’s Board of Directors.  Established in 1965, MWF brings the community together and provides a showcase for performing arts, activities, and recreation to the public, through music and special events.

Don Smiley, Chief Executive Officer, will remain in the role of Chief Executive Officer through December 2023.  The MWF board unanimously approved Smiley’s recommendation to name Sarah Pancheri President of the organization.

“Don will continue to provide overall leadership for Henry Maier Festival Park, Summerfest and Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. in fulfillment of our non-profit mission,” said Howard Sosoff, Chairman of MWF.  “Don’s contribution to our organization, the Milwaukee community and the state of Wisconsin is remarkable given his vision and execution of rebuilding Henry Maier Festival Park, making it possible to invest more than $160MM, culminating with the redevelopment of the American Family Insurance Amphitheater. The organization will continue to benefit from his leadership.”

“Sarah has been an integral part of the executive team of MWF since she rejoined the organization.  She has been involved in over $150 million in capital development on the grounds since 2015” said Howard Sosoff continued. “I am confident that Don, Sarah, and our outstanding team are well-positioned for the future of MWF.  The promotion of Sarah is richly deserved.”

Pancheri has been with MWF since 2015 when Smiley hired her as Vice President of Sales and Marketing, responsible for sponsorships, partnerships, advertising, and public relations. In 2019, Smiley promoted her to Chief Operating Officer, adding oversight of operations and event management to her responsibilities.

“Sarah is one of the most talented executives I have ever hired and promoted. She has played a crucial role in our success, building an all-star team that continues to create value for our sponsors, partners, and fans. She has forged relationships locally and nationally with a variety of stakeholders who recognize the value of Henry Maier Festival Park and associating with Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance, the World’s Largest Music Festival,” said Smiley.

“I have had the good fortune to grow with this organization and am excited to have an opportunity to further enhance our mission.” said Sarah Pancheri.  “In partnership with Don, I look forward to continuing to deliver a diverse calendar of events which represents the world’s top talent as well as festivals which consistently engender significant civic pride.”         

Going forward Pancheri will work closely with Smiley as MWF continues to manage Henry Maier Festival Park, Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance and an increasing number of concerts and events.

Smith began her career at the United Performing Arts Fund, followed by executive positions at MWF, Marquette University and The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee.

About Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. 
Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. is an independent, private 501(c)(3) corporation founded in 1965 that produces Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance, a three-weekend music festival featuring over 800 artists across 12 stages.  Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. also maintains and improves Henry Maier Festival Park, located on 75 acres on the shores of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, WI.  In addition to Summerfest, Henry Maier Festival Park hosts a variety of ethnic and cultural festivals, concerts, walks, runs, and other special events, attracting nearly 1.3 million people.  The mission of the organization is to promote an understanding of different ethnic cultures, the histories and traditions of various nationalities, harmony in the community, civic pride as well as to provide a showcase for performing arts, activities, and recreation for the public and employment opportunities for the youth of the community. For more details, visit,, Twitter: @Summerfest or Instagram: @Summerfest. 

Julie Dieckelman, (262) 853-1602 (cell)