Food vendors showcase offerings at Summerfest preview party

Lou Malnati’s, La Masa, Taqueria El Toro among restaurants at festival this year

Sara Pancheri, chief operating officer for Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., introduces Scott Ziel, director of entertainment for Summerfest, during a preview party for the festival on Tuesday afternoon. Ziel, far left, is taking over for outgoing director of entertainment Bob Babisch (center). (Photo by Cara Spoto/BizTimes)

Hoping to wet their whistles and their appetites, dozens of event boosters and members of the media attended Summerfest’s annual preview party on Tuesday afternoon, braving less than ideal weather for a chance to celebrate the start of festival season, have a beer and sample some of the new food items that will be on sale this year at the grounds many concession stands.

Welcoming party goers were Milwaukee World Festival leaders, including longtime entertainment director with the festival, Bob Babisch, who announced in March that he would be retiring from the post at the end of this year after 46 years in the role. Babisch’s successor, another longtime employee of Summerfest and MWF, Inc., former associate director of entertainment Scott Ziel, was also on hand, as was Sara Pancheri, chief operating officer for MWF, Inc. Don Smiley, MWF, Inc. CEO didn’t speak, but watched from the audience.

“I know in 30 days we’ll be saying what a difference 30 days makes as we all show up here in shorts,” Pancheri quipped, noting that the start of the three-weekend festival, which kicks off on June 23 is only a month away.

Lots of music

Speaking to the music offerings this year, which include headliners ranging from classic rock stalwarts REO Speedwagon and Styx to country music star Jason Aldean and hip hop legends Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa and Wu Tang Clan, Ziel noted that the draw of the Summerfest was that it has something for everyone.

Babisch, who will stay on with the festival as a consultant after his retirement, applauded the lineups at the event this year, noting that it was “one of the best ground (stage) lineups in years.” Some of those ground stage acts include 90’s grunge era band Stone Temple Pilots, KC & The Sunshine Band, and indie hip hop acts like Lupe Fiasco and Atmosphere.

Plenty to eat

After a brief toast to the start of festival season at the park, which kicks off June 2, with Pride Fest, event goers did their best to sample the foods of the many vendors at the event, which ranged from Lou Malnati’s pizza to Sil’s Mini Donuts, La Masa Empanada and Taqueria El Toro.

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Cara Spoto
Cara covers nonprofits, healthcare and education for BizTimes. Cara lives in Waukesha with her husband, a teenager, a toddler, a dog named Neutron, a bird named Potter, and a lizard named Peyoye. She loves music, food, and comedy, but not necessarily in that order.

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