In Festival Guide

After 68 years, the South Shore Water Frolics are on hold. (PHOTO: Dan Mullen/Flickr)

Bay View Lions suspend 2018 South Shore Water Frolics

After 68 years, the South Shore Frolics — a Bay View, South Shore-area and City of Milwaukee tradition — is suspended for 2018, according to the Bay View Lions Club, the organizer of the event.

The event, which began in 1948 as the South Shore Water Frolics in Bay View's South Shore Park by the Inter-Organization Council of Bay View, has happened every year since, except 1993. Since 1995, the Bay View Lions Club has hosted the free three-day event featuring food, music, a classic car show, an art show, a parade, and other family activities, including the Frolics' famous "atomic" fireworks to close each evening. The Frolics attracts 50,000-60,000 people annually, though it once attracted more than 200,000 in its earlier decades.

Held the second full weekend of July, the one-year suspension — possibly longer — leaves a summer entertainment void for thousands of attendees including generations of families who have grown-up attending the festival.

"A number of our fixed costs continue to increase leaving us with no options except to suspend the Frolics for 2018," says Bay View Lions Club president, Lyn Graziano. "Our basic costs from the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, and Milwaukee County Parks, as well as outside vendors have risen to the point where it is extremely difficult to produce a profit — any profit.

"The Frolics, the Bay View Lions Club's largest annual fund raiser has for three out of the last four years failed to be profitable. The lack of profitability from the Frolics has meant that the Bay View Lions Club doesn't have the revenue it needs for its community support efforts and community projects. Further, the losses have hurt the Bay View Lions Club ability to sponsor disabled children to the Lions Camp, support the Lions Leader Dog Program for the blind, as well as contribute to the Lions Disaster Relief programs," continues Graziano. "The Bay View Lions Club's motto is "We Serve" and our mission is to help those in need locally in our community and also contribute to important causes throughout our state and nation.

"Further, the fireworks uncertainty regarding the grand finale and its signature 'blow-up-the-beach fireworks' the last two years has also adversely impacted the Frolics attendance and consequently revenue. At times, it has been very difficult and frustrating to deal with the fireworks mandates initiated by the Milwaukee County parks director," adds Graziano.

"Despite having a current group of loyal and generous sponsors, the need for more permanent sponsorship remains a challenge to counter-balance rising costs. The South Shore Frolics has had an incredible 68 year run and put smiles on the faces of so many throughout the years. While we won't close the door entirely for 2019 and beyond, we would need the public, local government officials and business leaders to work together WITH us to help bring the event back. Questions that should be asked and answered: does the Frolics, a free summer event in a Milwaukee County park, make Bay View, the South Shore area, and City of Milwaukee a better place in the summer? Are the tens of thousands of people that attend this event every year from this area and city as part of their summer better off with the Frolics than without it?"

Continues Graziano, "Only the public, local government representatives, county parks leaders, and business leaders will answer those questions through their support and actions or lack thereof. The Frolics are suspended for 2018. Unless they all answer in the affirmative and work with us, the Frolics will join the West Allis Western Days, the Circus Parade, RiverFest and other community festivals as former free summer events that are gone forever and our community will be worse off for it."

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