This is the second blog in a series focusing on "random fest guests" – people I spontaneously interview at Summerfest.
Even though folks usually attend Summerfest for the food, drinks and/or the music, Brookfield’s Wendy Friedrich and her daughter, Alexa, showed up for the hugs.
At about 1 p.m. on Friday, the two made it through the gates with a handmade sign reading "free hugs" and stood next to the flow of fest walkers on the south end of the grounds, holding their sign and, about every few seconds, offering up a hug to a passerby.
"It’s the first time we’ve done this," says Friedrich.
Friedrich was inspired by a Facebook friend who had done the same thing in Canada. I wrote about a woman who was trying to dole out 1,000 hugs at Locust Street Festival last year.
"I thought it was really cool," says Friedrich. "There’s just not enough positive interaction between people anymore. There’s a lot of electronics and less person-to-person contact."
By the time I stumbled upon the huggers, they had been doling out embraces for about four hours.
"We’ve given out at least 100 hugs so far," says Friedrich.
Being a "hugger" myself, I hugged both Wendy and Alexa and indeed, both are doing it right. None of that back-patting, side hugging BS. Instead, they offered up friendly, genuine hugs that weren't too long, crushy or creepy.
Nor were they similar to the pathetic "man hugs" OnMilwaukee.com publisher Andy Tarnoff wrote about last summer.
According to Friedrich, only one fest-goer acted inappropriately and stuck a sticker on Alexa’s chest. Other than that, everyone else was positive.
"Even if people walk by and think we’re nuts, they still smile. It’s been awesome," says Friedrich. "And we’re not going to hang out too much longer. It’s probably best we stop before there are a lot of drunk people."