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 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.
Milwaukee Film Festival – The annual Brew City cinema extravaganza has moved to the spring, with another virtual edition hitting your screens on May 6-20.
Milwaukee Makers Market – This monthly maker gathering will still host a summer season in 2021, running 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at either Discovery World or The Ivy House beginning May 16. For the full schedule, click here.
Juneteenth – After going virtual for 2021, Juneteenth celebrations will return to Milwaukee's streets on Saturday, June 19 with in-person vendors and events ranging down King Drive from Center Street to Ring Street. CDC guidelines will be followed, and masks will be required for vendors and parade participants.
Seltzerland – This fizzy festival will bring samples of dozens of seltzers to to the Oak Hills Golf Course in Oak Creek on Saturday, June 5.
UPAF Ride for the Arts – This cycling series – serving as a fundraiser for the United Performing Arts Fund, supporting local creatives and performing arts groups – will take to the paths in 2021 on June 6, 13 and 27.
Brewtown Rumble – This vintage ride-in motorcycle show hasn't quite turned its keys in on the summer of 2021, postponing from its usual June date but hoping to still host an event sometime in the fall. For more updates, stay tuned to Brewtown Rumble's website and OnMilwaukee.
Cedarburg Strawberry Festival – Cedarburg's annual strawberry celebration, scheduled this summer for June 26-27, was unfortunately canceled after deliberations amongst the Festivals of Cedarburg Board along with assessments of current CDC guidelines and COVID trends. Cedarburg is still hoping to host its Wine & Harvest Festival on Sept. 18-19.
Highland Games/Scottish Fest – The Milwaukee Highland Games announced in February that it would cancel its Scottish Fest in Hart Park for this summer, originally scheduled for June 5. It intends to return for 2022.
Lakefront Festival of Art – While the Milwaukee Art Museum has opened back up, its annual Lakefront Festival of Art will stay distanced for 2021, taking place as a virtual event on June 18.
Locust Street Festival – The popular street festival, celebrating its 45th year, was originally scheduled for June 13 this summer, but the event – along with the Riverwest Beer Run that typically starts the festivities off – has been canceled for 2021.
Pabst Street Party – Burnhearts' usual summer street celebration in Bay View has been canceled for 2021 due to uncertainties still surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Polish Fest – The country's largest festival dedicated to Polish culture was originally planned for June 11-13 at the Summerfest grounds, but the event announced it would cancel its 2021 edition and return instead in 2022.
PrideFest – For the second consecutive year, PrideFest – originally set for June 3-6 at the Henry W. Maier Festival Festival Grounds – has canceled its beloved in-person gathering. In its January announcement, however, Milwaukee Pride said it would consider rescheduling in 2021 if circumstances change enough surrounding COVID-19 to host a safe, public event – and that smaller events will take place throughout the summer to continue the spirit and movement. For more updates and other resources, visit Milwaukee Pride's website.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Postponed ... maybe?
Milwaukee Air & Water Show – The Air & Water Show seemed cleared for takeoff, hitting the open skies above the city on July 24-25. Those dates are still on the schedule for now, but the show posted on its website that its fate is "currently on a hold status." So it's neither cancelled nor firmly on the schedule. Hopefully this is just some quick turbulence, and it'll be clear skies yet again for the Air & Water Show this summer. For more information and updates, stay tuned to the Air & Water Show's website.
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.
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.
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.
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 currently still scheduled to take over the State Fair grounds with food, music, racing pigs and more Aug. 5-15 – though the festival is asking fans to complete their survey to get a picture of potential attendees' comfort about an in-person fair, what precautions they'd like to see and more. Help out by filling out the survey here.
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.
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. Justin Bieber, Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton, Guns N' Roses, Blink-182 and Dave Matthew Band are tentatively scheduled as headliners, with former spotlight acts Halsey and Khalid postponing their tours for now, but stay tuned.
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.