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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014

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Randy and Debbie: Big Gig goers of the hardcore kind.
Randy and Debbie: Big Gig goers of the hardcore kind.

Random "fest guest" #1

This is the first blog in a series focusing on people I spontaneously interview at Summerfest – "random fest guests," if you will. And I really could not have gotten luckier than to arbitrarily pick Randy Honkala out of the crowd for my first crack at this.

So I walk up to Randy, who is enjoying a caramel sundae with his partner, Debbie, and I ask if I can interview him. He says sure, but only if he can provide an answer before I ask a question. I agree.

"214," he says.

I tell him I don't know what question would warrant such an answer other than maybe "what is 215 minus one?"

And so he tells me.

"214 is the answer to the question, ‘how many days have I consecutively gone to Summerfest?" 

Debbie verifies it is true – Randy has not missed a single day at Summerfest since the first day in 1994.

"The only reason he missed that first day in '94 was because he had surgery. But he went the next day," she says. "Two years ago, he was extremely sick. Sick enough that I had to bring the car up to the south entrance because he was throwing up. He still went every day."

Debbie goes with Randy to Summerfest about half the time. "I have to work," she says.

Randy retired from Tower Automotive in 1994, which is why he is able to spend so much time big gigging. He says one of his biggest life regrets happened in 1992 when he chose to work overtime on a Sunday instead of going to an Albert King show.

"He died within the year," says Randy. "And I don't even remember what I did with the money from the overtime."

So what does Randy dig about Summerfest so much?

"I love the people," he says. "And, of course, the music."

Randy, a guitar player and former sound engineer for now-defunct Milwaukee band The Mosleys, likes to check out primarily local bands. This year, he is looking forward to The Wigs reunion show, Los Lonely Boys, Semi Twang and Yipes!

When chatting about The Mosleys, a band I saw many times in the '90s, Randy and I realize we both have a painting in our homes brushed by the lead singer, Mike Fredrickson. 

As for favorite Summerfest foods, Randy doesn’t have one. "I don’t have ‘must eats.’ I just say ‘must eat.’ Period," he says. "She got the asparagus salad from Mader’s which is always a good starting place."

Randy doesn’t plan for any special celebration hoopla when he hits his 250th consecutive visit, but he does have one longterm Big Gig-related wish.

"I’m hoping they put a brick in for me after I die," he says. 

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