By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jul 11, 2023 at 11:59 AM Photography: Summerfest

Festival City is hopping this summer! OnMilwaukee's Festival Guide is brought to you by Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. Escape the heat and step inside! 

The Big Gig was a big deal these past three weeks – the biggest in years, as it turns out, as according to Summerfest, this year's fest drew a 40 percent increase in attendance over 2022 and the highest mark since the introduction of the three-weekend format. 

Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. announced Tuesday that 624,407 fans came through the gates across the music festival's nine days this year, a sizable leap over the past two years' tallies – 445,611 in its 2022 return to mid-summer and 409,386 in 2021, when the festival took place in September.

That 40 percent increase in attendance this year comes even with unprecedented smoky air during the second week as well as a last-second Amp fill-in booking (Yung Gravy) for what was already a last-second Amp fill-in booking (AJR for Jimmy Buffett).

The number is still below the festival's pre-pandemic attendance figures – drawing 831,769 in 2017; 766,192 in 2018; and 718,144 in 2019. This year's edition, however, draws the Big Gig much closer to those levels than its previous two post-pandemic efforts. Plus, those pre-pandemic Summerfest editions had the benefit of two extra days, hosted across 11 days as opposed to the current three-weekend, nine-day format. 

“These are fantastic results for Summerfest’s 55th anniversary," said Don Smiley, Chief Executive Officer of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., in a release. "We are thrilled our fans turned out to enjoy Summerfest’s unique brand of music, food, and fun. As I look back on my 20 years of leading Summerfest, this year’s festival is a highlight, as our team continued to deliver a world-class experience in a world-class setting."

In addition to all the great music and all the great events (shoutout to professional cornhole turning out to be awesome) scattered throughout the nine days, Summerfest also helped to do good outside its gates with this year's fest. Thanks to the ticket promo drives, Big Gig attendees donated more than 27,000 pounds of food for Hunger Task Force, more than $18,000 worth of hygiene products for Milwaukee and Waukesha County schools via United Way, and more than 3,500 books for Next Door. 

"Summerfest’s 2023 results allow our organization to continue to position the festival for future success," added Sarah Pancheri, President of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., in the release. "The Summerfest experience remains one of the best in the business and our team looks forward to enhancing that experience in the years to come."

You can already officially begin the countdown to next year's fest, too, as Summerfest also announced its dates for 2024. The Big Gig will once again stick with the three-weekend format, running June 20-22, June 27-29 and July 4-6. That's right: For the first time since 2019, we get a Summerfest Fourth of July once again.

For more Summerfest updates and information, visit the festival's website. And if you want to relive the memories of this past year's fest a few more times, here's OnMilwaukee's recap of the good, the bad and the Smash Mouth we saw at Summerfest in 2023.

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.