I am about to check a box on my Milwaukee life bucket list: I am about to attend Summerfest at least once every day during its 11-day run. In order to count, I must be there at least for one hour per day. This should be no problem. Only on one day do I see a conflict, but I've got a workaround -- I will just arrive later than most other days.
This is the year to do it, too. I’m 50 just like Summerfest is!
I don’t do Summerfest like may others. I tend to go early and leave early. There’s not many days that I stay there until after 8:00. Oh sure, I have. But those are usually nights I wind up regretting: I stayed too late, spent too much, drank waaay too much and usually, I say to myself the next day, “Never again.”
Of course, that means that I’ll likely miss the headliners, but I'm okay with that. If there’s a band that I really would like to see, Summerfest is not the best place to see them. I’m better off waiting till they come to town and play at the Pabst or Riverside or some other venue (though I do really like the BMO Harris Pavilion). I find myself more enjoying the “vibe” of Milwaukee Summer at Summerfest. That said, I’m a HUGE music fan and I’ll work hard to discover something unique and interesting each day while I’m there. I may spend a lot of time at the Emerging Artist Series at the Johnson controls World Sound Stage with 88Nine RadioMilwaukee. I like that they’ve assembled a playlist of the emerging artists on Spotify. I’ll spend a few hours listening to this playlist and picking out some new must-see artists. The cool thing, too, is most of these artists play early in the day, so it will be easy to catch them without staying until 10:00 PM.
One interesting challenge will be transportation -- just how will I get myself to and from the fest everyday? I see four means as my best options: 1) motorcycle, 2) walking, 3) public transportation, and 4) ridesharing. Driving my own auto and parking nearby seems the worst possible choice for a multitude of reasons.
Let’s look at the pro’s and con’s of each…
Motorcycle. How can you beat free parking right outside the main gate of Summerfest’s main entrance? You can’t. I’ve taken my BMW motorcycle there for many years and it’s always been great. And now that I have a Harley, my parking spot might even be just a tad bit more preferred. The con? Getting home. If I know that I am going to imbibe a very limited amount of adult beverages, motorcycle is the best option. (Another con: stay too late and you have to navigate through the crazies around the Third Ward -- especially hazardous on weekend nights. More than one motorcyclist has been severely or mortally injured leaving the festival grounds due to some crazed drunk car driver. Sad.)
Walking. If any of you follow my me and my wife’s walking exploits, you know that we often walk from our house in Wauwatosa to downtown Milwaukee. This is a hike of about seven miles. There’s a few pro’s about this method: 1) we get good exercise, 2) it’s cheap, and 3) we are absolutely removing any possibility of driving ourselves home should we choose to overindulge. The con is related; we are forcing ourselves to find a ride home (walking is an option, too, but not a very appealing one by day's end). With the advent of ride-sharing services like Lyft (my preferred rideshare partner) or Uber this has become very easy, but a little costly. An rideshare from the Summerfest grounds to our home in Wauwatosa is about $15, but can be higher during peak times.
Public Transportation. This normally is a GREAT option, but in 2017 it’s less great. The bus route near our house (route 31) has had its eastbound length truncated forcing riders to disembark at 10th Street. Before the construction that shorted the route’s length, one could ride eastward to darn near the north entrance gate of the grounds. Still public transportation is a nice and inexpensive way to travel ($2.25 per person each way), but also requires knowledge of the schedule and route. I see this as a great way to get to the festival -- combines walking with public transit -- but is not so great for the return home. We’ll see. I’m sure we’ll take it down at least one or two times.
Ridesharing. For convenience, you cannot beat this option. Essentially picks us up at our homes and drops off right at the main gate. Easy-peasy, but just costly. A round-trip using Lyft or Uber to and from the festival is bound to cost in excess of $30, so we’ll opt for this means only when convenience and timing is of the utmost importance.
You know there is a fifth option too: shuttle service. This is an excellent option, but does have a few cons: the consistency of the schedule being first. I have taken a few shuttles to the fest and it has always worked well for arrival at the grounds, but if you stay too late and try to catch one back it can become a nightmare. A few years ago we just said “screw it” and just walked back to our car parked in Milwaukee’s Fifth Ward (Walker’s Point). Waiting for a shuttle had become futile and there were a what seemed to be a million others waiting too.
And as I was writing about the fifth option, I remembered a sixth and seventh: riding my own bike or renting a Bublr bike. Dang -- there's a lot of ways to get the grounds! (Bublr's convenient, but darn near as costly as rideshare if you don't have an annual pass.)
So anyway, wish me luck as I’m about to embark on this ultimate Milwaukee bucket list adventure. If you're going to be down there during the day, feel free to send me a message -- perhaps we can meet up for a right-to-the-line cup of Milwaukee good cheer!