MILWAUKEE — For the first time in 788 days, the gates at the Big Gig are open.
Summerfest is finally up and running over the next three weekends: Sept. 2 to 4, 9 to 11 and 16 to 18.
“This is the fourth time we’ve booked this festival,” said Summerfest President and CEO Don Smiley to WTMJ’s Jeff Wagner. “Kudos to the staff and [VP of Entertainment] Bob Babisch and his staff for booking all these bands and reshuffling the deck as many times as they had to do that.”
Smiley says the decision to host the festival over the three weekends was calculated.
“The driving force behind that was we wanted to be able to put more national headliners up during the day,” he said. “We looked at the lesser producing revenue days of the week and we eliminated them…what did we do with that money that we saved during those days? We invested it in national headliners on the grounds during those nine days.”
Smiley says the move also allows them to appeal to different demographics, which he hopes will draw in more people to the big name bands during the day.
Despite high hopes for the success of the new format, it’s unclear how long it will last.
“I don’t think you can make any long-term judgements on this year alone because we are in a pandemic,” Smiley said. “Just getting open and just having the opportunity to execute this year is really a win for us. We’d rather give up a little attendance this year and make sure that we have a safe and healthy environment here for our guests and our fans to enjoy.”
Summerfest is also requiring either proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test in order to be on the grounds.
“It’s just the reality of where we are in the music industry today,” said Smiley. “This decision was based in three things: health, safety and business…to really realize the fruits of our labor on the business side, something like that needed to be done.”
Listen to the entire interview with Smiley in the player above.