Heat blamed for lower attendance at summer festivals


It was not only Wisconsin festival goers that had to endure last week’s extreme heat. Festivals themselves suffered, too.

More than 805,000 attendees walked through the Summerfest turnstiles this year in Milwaukee despite the heat. That’s eight-percent fewer than last year.

John Boler is Summerfest’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing. He says that’s expected when most of the days are in the 90s and 100s. “Though we were down in attendance and that attendance generated a little less consumer spending on the property, we were up significantly on the business-to-business side of Summerfest,” he says. “Our sponsorships, group sales, and exhibitor revenue was up 11.4%. So that’s going to help counteract that financial impact somewhat.”

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Boler says they’ll also have to dip into a reserve fund this year to help pay off the festival. He says next year’s festival should not be affected.

Across the state, Riverfest in La Crosse took a harder hit. Attendance and sales at the riverfront music and entertainment festival were down about 40% because of the heat.

Tammy Klein is president-elect of the Riverfest Board. She says next year’s festival will be a struggle. “We’ve already kind of been sitting around, tossing around ideas where we can kind of maybe do some different things next year and compensate for the losses,” she says.

The lost revenue may not only affect next year’s Riverfest, but also La Crosse’s 4th of July fireworks display and different nonprofit organizations, which are funded by beverage sales.

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