One of the more enjoyable rituals of springtime is the announcement of headliners for Summerfest, Milwaukee's big lakefront music festival. The biggest so far is Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, playing on Friday, June 28th. Petty has played Summerfest nearly a dozen times over the years, and has said it's one of his favorite places to play. Once, his only American show of the whole summer was there. Also announced: New Kids on the Block with 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men on July 2, which is as big a deal for children of the 1990s as the Petty show is for kids of the 70s and 80s. All of the shows announced over the winter are big-ticket Marcus Amphitheater shows. (Big ticket, indeed: I'm not going to say exactly what my Tom Petty tickets cost, but I will need to keep my job for a while.) Once summer gets a little closer, they'll begin announcing acts that will appear on the grounds stages.
Performances on the grounds stages are the real fun of Summerfest--you can see as many as you can get to in a day for the price of a general admission ticket ($17 at the gate this year). Over the years, Ann and I have seen Ray Charles, Steve Winwood, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and many other less famous acts on the grounds stages. One of our favorite Summerfest days was when we spent several hours at one stage listening to a blues band and a zydeco player, neither of which we'd ever heard of before that day, who positively burned the place down.
The other thing you do at Summerfest is eat, everything from hot dogs and pizza to baklava and sauerbraten. And because this is Milwaukee, it all floats on an ocean of beer. Plus, there is no better people-watching venue in all of a Wisconsin summer. If you go, do NOT try to drive your car downtown and find a place to park. Catch a shuttle bus from State Fair Park or other outlying venues in Milwaukee County. It costs a few bucks for a round trip, but it's easily worth the lack of parking aggravation.
Yeah, I know Summerfest isn't for three months yet, but I'm ready. It runs June 26 through July 7 this year, and is closed on July 4. Summerfest.com has all the information you'll want right now, and will have more as summer approaches.