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For The First Time Ever, Summerfest Is Canceled

11-Day Music Festival In Milwaukee Canceled Because Of Coronavirus

Morry Gash/AP Photo

Summerfest, Milwaukee’s multi-day music festival along the city’s lakefront, has been canceled because of concerns over the coronavirus.

It is the first time the festival has been canceled in its 53-year run.

The 11-day music festival was postponed until September in March because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but festival organizers officially called it off in a unanimous vote Thursday morning.

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The festival was supposed to be June 24-July 5 and was then moved to Sept. 3-5, 10-12 and 17-19. The massive festival will take place in 2021, and the dates will be announced in the weeks to come.

Don Smiley, president and CEO of Milwaukee World Festival, which puts on Summerfest, told WPR he recommended canceling the event to the board before they voted.

“Given the information available today, and the uncertainty surrounding very large gatherings, we cannot in good conscience proceed with the festival this year. The immediate future presents multiple levels of risk for our fans, and we choose the side of safety,” Smiley said in a statement announcing the cancelation.

The decision came “after careful, diligent, and thoughtful consideration and out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of our community — including artists, fans, vendors, participants and staff,” according to Smiley’s statement.

With so many major events canceled this summer, like the Wisconsin State Fair, this wasn’t a surprise to Summerfest sponsors or fans, Smiley said in the interview with WPR. But, it’s still disappointing.

“They were kind of looking forward to Summerfest in the fall to try to add some normalcy back into their lives,” he said. “And so now Summerfest is gone, too.”

This year’s scheduled performers included Justin Bieber, Khalid, the Dave Matthews Band, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Chris Stapleton and Blink-182, among others.

Information on admission refunds can be found at summerfest.com.

Summerfest began in 1968 and hosts music acts ranging from local favorites to the most popular acts in the world. About 800,000 people from Milwaukee and around the world attend the music festival that generates $186 million in economic impact each year, according to Summerfest.

Kristin Settle, communications director for tourism group Visit Milwaukee, is encouraging people who would have attended Summerfest to come to Milwaukee anyway this summer.

“Even though a lot of our favorite events and festivals and fairs have been canceled this year because of the pandemic, people are still searching us online, and looking to come to Milwaukee for a getaway,” she said.

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