Another year, another big success for the Big Gig.
Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., officials announced Thursday that the 49th annual edition of Summerfest brought a total of 804,116 people through the Henry Maier Festival Park gates. That number was a 4.1 percent increase over the 2015 attendance.
Nearly 2,100 seasonal workers were employed during the 11-day lakefront extravaganza, with an additional 320 volunteers providing more than 3,200 hours of support services.
The Marcus Amphitheater featured a blockbuster lineup, including Paul McCartney, Luke Bryan, Sting and Peter Gabriel, Blake Shelton, a co-headlining performance by Chris Stapleton and Alabama Shakes and Weezer and Panic! At The Disco.
"Hosting the legendary Paul McCartney was just one aspect of our success in 2016," said Don Smiley, the president and CEO of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. "Thanks to an incredibly diverse lineup of talented artists, the continued participation of our fans and the commitment of our partners, vendors and volunteers, Summerfest again delivered on its status as ‘The World’s Largest Music Festival.’"
Some highlights of the hundreds of grounds-stage performances were first-timers Jason Derulo, Ryan Adams and The Shining, Garbage, Chris Isaak, Milky Chance, The Decemberists and the Hollywood Vampires. Other evening headliners, including Chris Lane, Diane Coffee, Neil Finn, Drew Baldridge and Howard Jones, also drew capacity crowds.
Summerfest improved its interactive experience via its YouTube channel this year by enhancing video performances from artists such as Violent Femmes, Fitz & the Tantrums and Willie Nelson and through interviews with O.A.R., Gavin DeGraw, Kacey Musgraves and others.
According to the festival corporation, a total of 92,271 visitors – 11.4 percent of all attendees – took advantage of free or discounted daily admission promotions. And Summerfest distributed 25,000 weekday tickets for free (a value of $325,000) during the Opening Day giveaway. The Skyglider’s 95,755 trips provided patrons unbeatable views of the grounds and lakefront. The giant Ferris wheel offered 18,428 rides, and 3,500 fest-goers used the Badger Meter paddleboats. The Meijer Hole-in-One challenge attracted 19,977 swings, though no one was lucky enough to sink the shot this year.
Next year is the 50th Summerfest, and a significant effort was made to raise excitement for it, including offering the 50,000 for Summerfest 50 promotion and giving away free commemorative tickets to the 2017 edition.
For a recap of what was this year, check out OnMilwaukee’s best of the 2016 Big Gig.