For the last few years I have marveled at the fact that Summerfest, one of the world’s largest music festivals, and Milwaukee’s signature summer event, has completely ignored the area’s burgeoning Latino population.
To be fair, various ethnically-themed festivals run almost every summer weekend at the lakeside Henry W. Maier festival park where Summerfest takes place. For example, we have Polish Fest, Festa Italiana, African World Festival and Fiesta Mexicana. Certainly Summerfest itself is not meant to be an ethnic festival, just a big, 10-day music party, but considering the array of music available, it’s surprising that there has been almost no effort to bring groups that would draw Latinos.
Once primarily a haven for remnants of 70s and 80s rock bands, Summerfest has continued to evolve with the culture. The shows on the main stage have appealed to a more diverse audience and you can find a wide variety of country, R&B, rock and pop on the side stages.
But I’ve wondered why the fair’s planners have ignored the entire culture that has evolved on Milwaukee’s south side, the Mexicans, the Puerto Ricans and the Guatemalans who love music, beer and parties – the staples of Summerfest culture. With Chicago, Madison and Green Bay able to supply a seemingly large enough of an audience to draw some great Latino acts, why haven’t they reached out? Have they not noticed the growing Latino population? Well, it’s really only their loss, of dollars.
It does appear, however, that the State Fair, probably the second-largest event of a good Milwaukee summer, has wised up to this growing consumer base.