Festivals and Parades

During the summer, there are many festivals throughout Milwaukee. The largest festival is Summerfest, which draws more than 900,000 people to Milwaukee’s lakefront every year.  The event, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2017, is considered one of the best music festivals in the country. It features more than 11 permanent stages and a continual lineup of jazz, rock, zydeco, blues, big band and “golden oldies” music. The 25,000-seat American Family Insurance Amphitheater draws big-name talent, including Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Tim McGraw, Tom Petty, The Pretenders, Aretha Franklin, Pearl Jam, Jimmy Buffet, Alicia Keys, Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, John Mellencamp, Alanis Morisette and Milwaukee's own Bo Deans. Children are also welcome at Summerfest. There is a playground, and several children's stages feature magic shows and other entertainment intended specifically for young people.

The festival park also is used to stage the many events organized by local ethnic groups, including Festa Italiana, German Fest, Irish Fest, Mexican Fiesta, PrideFest, Indian Summer, and Polish Fest.

Festivals and parades, however, aren’t confined to the lakefront. Parade season kicks off in March with the annual St. Patrick's Day parade in Westown Milwaukee. In July, Milwaukeeans celebrate the beginning of the French Revolution at Bastille Days, a downtown block party that is considered to be the largest celebration of its kind in the country. Greek Fest is an annual celebration held at State Fair Park. In addition, Catholic parishes hold weekend galas throughout the city, while River Rhythms draws hundreds of people to the Milwaukee River in the summer. The annual Kettle Moraine Jazz Festival attracts thousands of jazz lovers to West Bend every September.

Racine’s 1,000-slip marina is a focal point of activity throughout the summer. The city’s nationally famous fishing contest, Salmon-A-Rama, draws participants from around the country in July.

The Wisconsin State Fair is the premier family fun event of the summer, featuring something for everyone. The fair is held each August at State Fair Park in West Allis and is the area's largest event, attracting close to 910,000 people over 11 days. 

Summer doesn’t have a monopoly on area activities. The Milwaukee Film Festival brings internationally acclaimed films to local theaters in the fall. The annual Holiday Folk Fair, the nation’s oldest and largest indoor ethnic festival, is held around Thanksgiving each year at the Wisconsin Exposition Center at State Fair Park.

Racine is noted for its lavish Christmas displays and holiday parades. You’ll want to check out “Christmas House,” which consists of two turn-of-the-century mansions bathed in more than 200,000 lights. The Festival of Trees features 30 professionally decorated Christmas trees, wreaths and gingerbread houses. Then there is the outdoor ice skating at Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee, where you can enjoy coffee or hot chocolate while you glide away in the city’s theater district.

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