Summerfest attendance down in 2019

A total of 718,144 visited the festival this year

Visitors were lined up to enter the Summerfest grounds as soon as the 2019 festival opened for its first day.

Summerfest saw a 6% drop in attendance this year, which festival operators attributed to multiple days of thunderstorm warnings and one fewer amphitheater headlining act.

A total of 718,144 visited the 2019 festival, a decrease from 766,192 in 2018. The 2018 total was down 8 percent from the 2017 festival, which brought in 831,769 visitors.

Milwaukee World Festival Inc. officials estimated that, had the festival hosted its typical 11 amphitheater acts, attendance would have been 733,144. Two headliners scheduled for the July 4 slot backed out for health reasons. Initially, Ozzy Osbourne was scheduled to play the American Family Insurance Amphitheater at the festival grounds, but later postponed all of his 2019 tour dates. His replacement, heavy metal band Megadeth, then cancelled its show due to lead singer Dave Mustaine’s throat cancer diagnosis.

Festival officials also noted that severe thunderstorm warnings were issued late in the afternoon on four of the festival’s 11 days. Despite lower attendance, the festival was “profitable and remains well-positioned for the future,” a Summerfest statement said.

Completed in time for this year’s festival was the first phase of the $50 million American Family Insurance Amphitheater redevelopment project. The project included raising a portion of the venue’s roof by 26 feet, rebuilding the backstage area to include new artist amenities, production offices, dressing rooms and additional loading docks, and adding a removable stage and flat floor seating in front of the stage and two LED walls on either side of the stage. The second phase of the project, which will bring expanded concourses, additional food and beverage options and more restrooms, is expected to be completed for the 2020 festival.

“Summerfest 2019 demonstrates Milwaukee World Festival, Inc.’s continued commitment to a world class experience for our fans,” said Don Smiley, president and chief executive officer of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. “This year, we were excited to host performers like Jennifer Lopez in the completed Phase One of the American Family Insurance Amphitheater $53 million redevelopment. This show’s production would not have been possible in the past.”

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.