- From an autographed guitar by Tom Petty to a video of
memories, including couples talking about how they met
their future spouses at Summerfest.
are just some of the items on display at the Milwaukee
County Historical Society as it commemorates the
world’s largest musical festival’s 50th anniversary.
banners to T-shirts to pins, the exhibit is bedecked
with that familiar logo of the smiley face. Some came
from the historical society’s collection, some from
Summerfest and some from the public.
been the symbol since 1970,” historical society
curator Ben Barbera said of the logo. “When you think
of the various institutions that have rebranded aover
the years and something so simple has lasted so long is
clippings dating back to 1962 tell of Milwaukee’s
signature event’s genesis by the city’s leaders that
eventually wound up on the lakefront, growing into
something that brings millions of dollars annually to
the city, eventually leading to different ethnic
festivals at the venue.
know Summerfest today as a major music festival,”
Barbera said. “This is something they were trying to
create out of nothing - what this was going to be and
what it was going to called and the music that would be
there,” he said
of the inspirations was Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany,
but the event wound up uniquely Milwaukee, he added.
brings together this enjoyment of summer and outdoor
activity and entertainment, and the food and the
drink,” Barbera said. “Somehow they got the mix
so Milwaukee,” said Mame McCully, the historical
society’s executive director.
excitement remains, but the grounds, food, beer, music
and more change, McCully said. Among the changes this
year is the new Miller stage, she noted.
also personal for so many residents and visitors.
McCulley started going to Summerfest when she was in day
camp and later worked a popcorn wagon as a teen.
relationship can change with the festival over time,”
she said. “You can see things differently.”
exhibit makes it personal with 300 video interviews
exploring the first time at the Big Gig, favorite
memories and meetings of future spouses, Barbera said.