Johnsonville added as Summerfest sponsor

New ‘Summerville’ space will replace former Klement’s Sausage & Beer Garden

Summerfest operator Milwaukee World Festival Inc. (MWF) and Sheboygan County-based sausage manufacturer Johnsonville unveiled the details of a new multi-year sponsorship agreement between the two organizations Friday.

Klement’s Sausage & Beer Garden at the Summerfest grounds.

This news comes just a few weeks after Milwaukee-based Klement’s Sausage Company Inc. announced it had ended a sponsorship agreement for Summerfest, following a dispute in which MWF alleged Klement’s had not paid its sponsorship payments.

The new multi-year sponsorship agreement between Johnsonville and MWF will begin this year. The partnership includes a new Johnsonville “Summerville” footprint and stage, and the designation as the official sausage, hot dog, and sausage stick of Summerfest. Only Johnsonville brats, hot dogs and related products will be sold throughout Henry Maier Festival Park.

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The Johnsonville Summerville footprint will be located on the north end of Henry Maier Festival Park, replacing the former Klement’s Sausage & Beer Garden, and will feature an outdoor patio-like stage. There will also be a pop-up Johnsonville Marketplace store and other promotions. MWF declined to share the renovation cost for creating the new Summerville area, but said it would be completed by the summer.

“Summerville will feature an intimate stage with Wisconsin-based artists with various activities including yard games, cooking demonstrations, sampling of Johnsonville products and much more,” said Don Smiley, chief executive officer of MWF.

Ralph Stayer, former Johnsonville chief executive officer and board chairman, said being able to enter this sponsorship agreement with Summerfest is a dream he’s had for years that has now come to fruition. Stayer said he and his family are regulars at the yearly music festival and one of his fondest memories is listening to Van Morrison sing ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ at Summerfest.

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“I had always wanted to be a Summerfest sponsor but I never thought it was possible,” said Stayer. “The previous sponsor decided not to participate anymore so Summerfest reached out to us. We said, ‘Boy yes, we’d love to talk.’”

Stayed said he has several personal connections to Milwaukee and that most of Johnsonville’s management team lives in the city, which adds to the excitement of the company being a Summerfest sponsor.

“They’re so excited I can’t tell you. Summerfest is the best in the world and so are we. So, we fit together. I mean we have 75 percent of the market share,” said Stayer. “I just love it.”

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This year, Summerfest will be held over three weekends: June 22-12, June 29-July 1 and July 6-8.

“As one of Wisconsin’s family-owned legacy companies, we are thrilled to have Johnsonville join our roster of sponsors at Summerfest as we celebrate our 55th anniversary,” said Smiley. “This new partnership celebrates hometown pride and provides the opportunity to showcase the Johnsonville brand and products during the festival.”

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