By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Aug 06, 2019 at 3:56 PM

Slurp up these festival stories packed with vitamins, minerals and everything you need to spike your summer fun. The Summer Festivals Guide is brought to you by Punch Bowl Social. Come on in – it's time we all win at adulting.

This content is presented in partnership with Wisconsin State Fair.

The Wisconsin State Fair is full sensory experience – from your taste buds experiencing all things deep fried and on a stick, to the thrills of jetting down the Giant Slide or zipping around one of the rides in SpinCity, and the way your heart smiles walking through the barns and seeing all the sweet Sconnie animals all dressed up and dolled up.

The State Fair sensory experience wouldn't be complete, of course, without all the music jam-packed throughout the Fair Park. There's always the star-studded shows playing at the State Fair Main Stage presented by Potawatomi Hotel & Casino and the Associated Bank Amphitheater – but there's also the equally potent performances, both local and from across the Midwest, scattered across the streets of the Fair. But how is one to decide which of the dozens of acts to see?

We've made it easy with this genre guide to the many stages of the State Fair about to blast sweet sounds into your ears like little sonic cream puffs for your cochlea. From rock to reggae, polka to country, you're bound to find something worth a boogie. 

If you like country music ...

Country music is very well-represented on the State Fair Main Stage with both Brett Eldredge and Old Dominion – but that's not the only place you can hear some terrific twang. While there's country scattered across the stages of State Fair, the best place to find it on the regular would be Big Sky Country Bar & Grill, which lives up to its name with Tim Castle and Dale Sellers performing a tribute to the genre's legends Aug. 4-10, Amileigha Blue and Jeremy from Rebel Grace hitting a few shows and many more taking the stage.


  • Big Sky Country Bar & Grill – on Central Avenue and Third Street

If you like polka ...

It wouldn't be a proper Wisconsin State Fair without a healthy dose of polka, so make sure to visit the bandstand at Cracovia, where you'll find the aptly named Polka Mania performing with Still Stormin', or the stage at Slim's Lakefront Brew Pub & Eatery during your early visits, where Bryan O'Donnell and Friends will power out the polka every day starting at 12:30 p.m. Bonus points if you bust out a proper polka dance, as well! (Do not ask what the points do; the points are arbitrary because I just made them up now.) 


  • Cracovia – on Sue Wetley Court and Second Street
  • Slim's Lakefront Brew Pub & Eatery – in the Big Backyard on First Street

If you like rock of all kinds ...

The worst people will tell you that rock is dead. They are unsurprisingly wrong – especially when it comes to the Wisconsin State Fair, where a trot down any block can find you a live band blasting out their particular brand of rock. A fan of a blend of hard rock and punk? Try Addiction at Water Street Brewery. Want some classic rock covers from the genre's glory days? There's Boomer Nation at Sprecher Landing. Stuck on smooth harmonies to go with your slick guitar solos. Sample Robert Allen Jr. And that's all just scratching the surface of all the ways you can rock out at State Fair. 


  • Leadfoots Race Bar & Grill – between Second Street and Benno's Micro Alley on Grandstand Avenue
  • Robert's – on Second Street and Benno's Micro Alley on Grandstand Avenue
  • Saz's BBQ – on Badger Avenue and Second Street
  • Sprecher Landing – on the north Grandstand Avenue
  • Water Street Brewery – on the west side of Central Mall on Central Avenue and Second Street

If you like reggae ...

The Tropics stand is already known as a stealthy spot to relax during the Wisconsin State Fair. But R&R at Tropics doesn't simply stand for rest and relaxation; it's reggae and relaxation thanks to its stage's lineup headlined by the roots reggae-inspired King Solomon – not to mention the swampy Southern blend of Yard Dog Charlie. With all of the acts hitting the stage at the Tropics, this vendor spot truly feels like a warm weather vacation in the middle of West Allis. 


  • Tropics – between Center Street and First Street on Wetley Way

If you like nightly staples ...

Sometimes trying to hit all the awesome stuff to eat, see and do at the Wisconsin State Fair can be overwhelming, so it can be nice to have some regular entertainment to stabilize your schedule. And that's why we direct your attention to Apollo's, Pistol Pete's, Rupena's and Saz's Miller High Life Pavilion, where they've booked nightly staples like Mark and Matt Dual, Bobby Friss, Passion, The Dirty Deuce, Jerry and Nora, Bobby Way and the Wayouts, and more set on the schedule for multiple nights, and in some cases every night, of the State Fair. So if you love one of the bands playing, you'll only have to wait until the next day – not the next Fair – to hear them again.


  • Apollo's – on the corner of Wetley Way and Center Street
  • Pistol Pete's – between Second Street and Benno's Micro Alley on Grandstand Avenue
  • Rupena's – on the west side of Central Mall on Central Avenue and Center Street
  • Saz's Miller High Life Pavilion – on Central Avenue and Second Street

If you like Sconnie acts ...

It's the Wisconsin State Fair, so you bet your deep fried butt on a stick there's going to be local acts on local acts hitting the fair's stages. And if you want to snag the most Sconnie sounds as possible, you'll want to park yourself at the Bud Pavilion, Charcoal Grill Roadhouse, the Miller Lite Sports Bar & Grill and Tavern at the Park where you'll find beloved Brew City and Badger State acts like The Love Monkeys, Bella Cain, The Toys, Cherry Pie, RPM, 5 Card Studs and many more. 


  • Bud Pavilion – between Benno's Micro Alley and Main Street on Central Avenue
  • Charcoal Grill Roadhouse – across from the Big Backyard on Main Street
  • Miller Lite Sports Bar & Grill – on Grandstand Avenue and Second Street
  • Tavern at the Park – between Benno's Micro Alley and Main Street on Grandstand Avenue

If you like games ...

If you're at the Wisconsin State Fair, you're already a winner – you're drinking, you're eating, you're shopping and most importantly, you're not working. But you can be an even bigger winner at these three stages with their fun trivia, games and activities. 

If you're feeling the luck of the Irish – or just lucky in general – drop by Slim McGinn's Irish Pub and play trivia with America's Pub Quiz, hosted everyday at the popular Fair locale. Tired of the professional musicians having all the fun? Spin by Pitch's BBQ and Miss Katie's Diner for moonlight karaoke; there may be no prizes but you could win over the crowd's love and adoration. Does your singing voice sound more like something from the barnyard exhibits? Still have a uniquely good time with tunes with music bingo at Slim's PBR Park on Aug. 5-10. 


  • Pitch's BBQ and Miss Katie's Diner – on the west side of Central Mall on Central Avenue and First Street
  • Slim McGinn's Irish Pub – on Grandstand Avenue and Second Street
  • Slim's PBR Park – on Badger Avenue and First Street

If you like a bit of everything ...

Much like the event as a whole, you can find just about anything on the stages of the Wisconsin State Fair – in particular, however, at Double K's, Knucklehead and Major Goolsby's Heartland. Double K's serves up a combo platter of rock, country, funk and more, while Knucklehead features everything from singer-songwriter tunes to classic rock and stomping country covers. Meanwhile, Major Goolsby's might have the widest range of tunes on the entire grounds, ranging from local country (The WhiskeyBelles) to powerful polka (Squeezettes) to blues (Reverend Raven) and just plain party music (Big Spoon). If you like music – and we'd hope you do – you'll find something to jam out to while knocking back a beer and noshing your latest State Fair stick food. 


  • Double K's Ranch Grub & Suds – on Wetley Way and Second Street
  • Knucklehead – on the west side of Central Mall on Central Avenue and Center Street
  • Major Goolsby's Heartland – between First Street and Center Street on Badger Avenue
Matt Mueller Culture Editor

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.