By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jun 04, 2020 at 8:54 AM Photography: Andy Tarnoff

Surprising very few amid ongoing pandemic fears, The Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. Board of Directors decided to completely cancel this year's Summerfest at its meeting on Thursday morning.

Initially, the 11-day June/July festival had been moved to nine days across multiple weekends in September. But it's unclear even now if anyone will have a taste for planting themselves in the middle of a huge crowd come September.

This is the first time in its more than 50-year history that the Big Gig has been totally canceled.

A number of scheduled headliners have already moved their shows to next year, including Halsey, Dave Matthews Band and Chris Stapleton.

After the meeting, Don Smiley, President & CEO of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., issued a statement:

"After careful, diligent, and thoughtful consideration and out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of our community – including artists, fans, vendors, participants and staff – Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance will not take place in September 2020, as previously announced.

"It is our honor to be responsible for such a storied tradition. With five decades of festivals, countless legendary performances and millions of memories, Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. explored numerous options to ensure the Summerfest tradition could continue in 2020, in a safe and healthy manner.

"Yet, given the information available today, and the uncertainty surrounding very large gatherings, we cannot in good conscience proceed with the festival this year. The immediate future presents multiple levels of risk for our fans, and we choose the side of safety.

"This announcement comes after our staff, sponsors and vendors have worked tirelessly over the past two months to reformulate the festival for the rescheduled 2020 dates. Our commitment to doing everything possible to preserve the social and economic impact of $186 million, which Summerfest generates annually is paramount, yet the uncertainties are too great.

"Our present situation is especially disheartening, given that the new $53 million American Family Insurance Amphitheater was scheduled to open on June 24, ready to host over 20 superstars during and after Summerfest. We are grateful to American Family Insurance and all the donors who made this new venue possible, and look forward to welcoming artists and fans in 2021.

"Refunds on Summerfest admission tickets purchased via Summerfest.com or Ticketmaster are available. Information regarding how to get a refund on festival admission tickets, as well as information regarding concert tickets for the American Family Insurance Amphitheater or the BMO Harris Pavilion can be found at Summerfest.com.

"As we all face a challenging and unusual summer and fall ahead, we sincerely appreciate all the support demonstrated by our fans and sponsors and encourage you to support your favorite musicians in the months to come. We hope you will carry the spirit of Summerfest with you until we can be together again. May the magic of music fill your life with joy and memories.

"Until Summerfest 2021, I remain, sincerely,

"Don Smiley"

Summerfest plans to announce the dates of its 2021 festival soon.

Stay tuned for more news as it becomes available.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.