Normalcy is slowly yet surely returning – and for Milwaukee, that means summer festivals and some of your favorite traditions, from riding the Skyglider to live music and merely soaking in a gorgeous lakefront day with a tasty drink, are returning too.
But even while the finish line is in sight, with the COVID-19 pandemic still a risk and vaccinations still working their way through the population (be sure to sign up and get yours!), some festivals are choosing to wait until next summer to avoid uncertainties and health worries while others are moving forward with a 2021 return. Keeping track of all the festivals and events the great Milwaukee summer has to offer was already a tricky task before; now it's even more of a challenge as they come, go and shift around the schedule based on rising and falling COVID concerns and guidelines.
To help make clarity out of the calendar chaos – and to help you plan out the best possible season after last year's stolen summer – here's a guide to which festivals are still on the remaining schedule and which are canceled for 2021. Be sure to check in regularly as we'll consistently update the list with any changes, positive or negative – and be sure to safe, be smart, be considerate and have a terrific summer, Milwaukee.
Armenian Fest – This annual celebration of Armenian culture (including a lot of delicious food) will take place at St. John the Baptist Armenian Orthodox Church at 7825 W. Layton Ave. on Sunday, July 18 from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Bristol Renaissance Faire – Take a trip back in time with the Bristol Renaissance Faire, with all the turkey legs, mugs of mead and fanciful period-appropriate dress you could want returning on Saturday, July 10 and running every Saturday and Sunday afterward until Sept. 6.
Chill on the Hill – The hills of Humboldt Park are alive with the sound of music! After a pandemic-induced delay, the Bay View live music series will return to the chalet every Tuesday night starting on July 13. For the full lineup, click here.
EAA AirVenture – It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's the EAA AirVenture, which is scheduled to take off once again July 26 through Aug. 1 over Oshkosh.
Gathering on the Green – Mequon's two-day outdoor live music festival will rock on once again this summer, hosting headlining acts country star Trace Adkins on Friday, July 9 and '80s rock favorites Cheap Trick on Saturday, July 10.
Hart Fest – The Tosa festival will return in 2021, coming back for two weekend days on July 9-10 with musical headliners Trippin Billies (a Dave Matthews tribute band) on Friday night and The LoveMonkeys on Saturday night, with more music and celebration throughout the day.
Milwaukee Brewfest – Not that Wisconsinites need an excuse to drink beer – but here's a great excuse to drink beer, on tap to serve up plentiful craft brews and more in McKinley Park on Saturday, July 31.
MKE Food Truck Fest – Wheels are up on the inaugural MKE Food Truck Fest, presented by OnMilwaukee and Milwaukee World Festival Inc. and hosted on the Summerfest grounds. From noon until 5 p.m., the new food fest will roll in more than a dozen food truck vendors cooking up their finest curbside feasts. For tickets, click here.
Washington County Fair – The countdown at the Washington County Fair's website is still ticking as the festival remains locked in to its July 20-25 dates on the summer calendar.
Waukesha County Fair – Get ready to celebrate 179 years (!) of the Waukesha County Fair this summer as the eclectic county celebration – featuring livestock, tasty fair food, rollicking rides and more – will return to the county expo grounds on July 21-25.
Bastille Days – You'll have to wait another year for Milwaukee's annual French connection as Bastille Days canceled its 2021 edition, in addition to postponing the popular Jazz in the Park music series with hopes of putting on a truncated edition later in the summer/fall. A virtual version of Storm the Bastille, however, will take place, and the weekly Cathedral Square Markets are scheduled each Saturday starting June 12 through Oct. 9.
Brady Street Festival – The annual block party down Brady Street announced in early May that it cancelled its 2021 edition due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, with plans to return once again in 2022. The annual Art Walk, however, scheduled for July 10 from noon to 4 p.m., will continue as planned.
Festa Italiana – For the second straight year, Festa Italiana – the popular landfront festival dedicated to Italian food, music, culture and more – has canceled its summer tradition due to ongoing concerns and uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
German Fest – The beloved three-day celebration of German culture, originally set for July 30 through Aug. 1 at the Summerfest grounds, announced it would cancel its 2021 edition in February.
Milwaukee Air & Water Show – The Air & Water Show seemed cleared for takeoff, hitting the open skies above the city on July 24-25, but after posting on its website that the show was "on a hold status," the aerial celebration announced that it had canceled its 2021 edition, with plans to return to the skies next summer.
Riverwest 24 – The annual day-long bike race throughout the Riverwest neighborhood, originally planned for July 23-24, has been canceled – though, according to the website, this year will still feature "a holiday" still celebrating the event safely. For more updates, stay tuned to Riverwest 24's website.
Bloody Mary Festival – Cheers! The Bloody Mary Festival will have a second chance to host its second Milwaukee edition, currently scheduled to bring dozens of Bloody Mary varieties to Deer District on Saturday, Aug. 21.
Bronzeville Week – While no explicit plans have been set, Bronzeville's official website tells visitors to save the date for Aug. 7-14 this summer. For more information on this celebratory tribute to the iconic Milwaukee neighborhood, stay tuned.
Irish Fest – Sláinte! The popular Irish culture festival still plans to host its 40th edition this summer at the Henry Maier Festival Park, scheduled for Aug. 20-22. The planners expect to "make any necessary adjustments to our operations and modify the layout to comply with regulations, restrictions and recommendations put in place at the time of our festival," in addition to incorporating a virtual component as well.
Mexican Fiesta – This three-day lakefront festival – celebrating Mexican heritage, culture, food, education and more – still expects to host its annual fiesta at the Summerfest grounds on Aug. 27-29. For more information and updates, visit Mexican Fiesta's website.
Milwaukee Fringe Festival – The show will go on as, after a year-long hiatus due to the pandemic, this popular art showcase – featuring everything from dance, music, visual arts, theater, performance art and every genre in between or not even invented yet – will take the stage once more on Saturday, Aug. 28 outside Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. This year's edition will also feature a virtual component as well, streaming pre-recorded performances on its website throughout the month.
Night Market – It's a new day for the beloved Night Market, as the Downtown gathering will return for a one-night special edition on Wednesday, Aug. 18 from 5-10 p.m. While it may not be the monthly affair this summer, the August edition will feature the same festive atmosphere and impressive gathering of vendors, crafts and more.
Serbian Days – This celebration of Serbian culture, cuisine and more will return this summer, hosted at St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral on Aug. 20-22. For more information, check out the Serbian Days Facebook page.
Taco Fest – It's time for tacos! Milwaukee Taco Fest will get cooking on the Summerfest grounds on the first of August this year, featuring live music, lucha libre wrestling, a chihuahua beauty pageant and, of course, tons and tons of tacos to crunch into. For more information, visit Taco Fest's website.
Washington Park Wednesdays – The popular concert series will return to its historic concert shell this August, with four concert nights scheduled for the month. And if you can't wait until then, there's also the return of the Washington Park Wheels concert series, featuring live music performing and driving around the neighborhood in July. For more information – including lineups – on both weekly events, click here.
Waukesha BluesFest – This live music fest, hosted in Naga-Waukee Park in Delafield, is scheduled to take the stage once again on Aug. 13-14, with headliners Robben Ford and Albert Castiglia along with Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings expected to perform.
Wisconsin State Fair – The late summer statewide party is confirmed on the schedule, once again taking over the State Fair grounds with food, music, racing pigs, cream puffs and more on Aug. 5-15 – complete with headliner acts such as Boyz II Men, The Beach Boys, Billy Idol and more.
Center Street Daze – This neighborhood festival roaring down the main drag of Riverwest will wait until 2021, as the event announced that it canceled its typical August celebration. Center Street Daze, however, is looking forward to returning in 2022 – and they hinted at smaller events around the block potentially coming as well.
Zoo a la Carte – This Zoo-hosted food and music extravaganza, originally scheduled for Aug. 19-22, has been canceled according to the Milwaukee County Zoo. The good news: You can at least still visit the Zoo! For details on its hours and protocols, click here.
Best Dam Blues Fest – If you hear a soulful ruckus Sept. 18-19, it's probably this two-day Thiensville music festival, featuring Toronzo Cannon, the Koch Marshall Trio, Altered Five Blues Band, the Joanna Connor Band and The Jimmys all jamming out on stage in Thiensville Village Park. For more information, check out its Facebook events page.
Maker Faire Milwaukee – Make your way back over to Maker Faire Milwaukee later this summer as this gathering of all things crafty and cool will return Sept. 24-26 – albeit in a new location, no longer at the Wisconsin State Fair grounds or Wisconsin Center but now at MSOE's Downtown campus.
Milwaukee Rally – Get your engines revved up as this popular long weekend of motorcycle mania will return to Harley headquarters across the area Thursday, Sept. 2 through Monday, Sept. 6. Stay tuned to the event's website for more updates as the rally gets closer.
Pet Fest – Good news for two-legged and four-legged friends alike: Pet Fest is currently still expected to host its annual animal gathering at Henry Maier Festival Park this summer, on the schedule for Sept. 25 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Stay tuned to Pet Fest's website for more updates and information.
Summerfest – After a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Big Gig moved from its usual two weeks in June and July to three weekends in late summer/late fall: Sept. 2-4, 9-11 and 16-18. Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton, Miley Cyrus, Dave Matthew Band, Dave Chappelle, Jonas Brothers and the trio of Fall Out Boy, Weezer and Green Day are scheduled as headliners, with more acts to come. Click here for the full headliner lineup thus far.
Bay View Bash – The annual Bay View celebration, typically scheduled for the third Saturday in September, has been canceled for 2021 due to uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the ability to safely gather for large-scale events. Stay tuned for another Bash in 2022, though!
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.