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Early Tuesday evening, Summerfest announced the preliminary results for this year's Big Gig, and despite delivering 12 days of rocking music entertainment, the end numbers rocked less than the last several fests.
Based on Summerfest's early tabulations, this year's edition of the festival drew 772,652 patrons. Even if you add in the 23,000 fans who attended The Rolling Stones big Marcus Amphitheater Big Gig kick-off show, that final number is Summerfest's lowest in at least a decade. In a press release sent Tuesday evening, Milwaukee Music Festival Inc. president and CEO Don Smiley noted many of the external factors that may have caused the low attendance total.
"In this business, there are certain elements within your control and various elements that are out of your control," Smiley said. "This year we dealt with some extraordinary factors that significantly affected people’s participation with the event. Between significant area road construction which led to very challenging routes and traffic congestion, unseasonably cold weather for the first half of the festival and a major mass transit work stoppage by transit workers during the event, Summerfest’s numbers were negatively impacted.
"The music was outstanding, as were the food and beverages, and other attractions," he continued. "The event business is very unpredictable, however, our local, national and international attendees, along with a world-wide streaming audience, got a ‘bird’s eye view’ of Milwaukee and its musical gem. We now move on to 2016."
Summerfest drew 851,879 patrons in 2014, 840,356 in 2013, 805,437 in 2012 and 878,636 in 2011.
The low numbers weren't due to a lack of effort, as nearly 2,289 seasonal employees and 300 volunteers and drivers worked to make sure the festival's over 800 acts and over 1,000 performances went off without a hitch.
Not all of the results were below expected. On the corporate side of matters, Summerfest forged new marketing partnerships with the likes of Patrick Cudahy, Meijer, Uber, Sendik's, Quaker, Live Media Group and more. In the case of the Big Gig's partnership with Live Media Group, the festival was able to stream highlights and performances live over the Internet and on mobile devices for the first time, bringing shows by over 60 artists to over 700,000 fans from 66 countries.
The resulting coverage, at least according to Summerfest's early numbers, also turned out 5,805 articles written about the Big Gig – 537 of which coming from international media outlets. And, many via OnMilwaukee.com.
As Smiley noted, however, it is already time to start the countdown to next year's festival, which runs June 29 through July 10 with an off-day on Independence Day, Monday, July 4.