Tippereenos. Advice. Protips, as the kidzos say.
Walk It Off
Henry Maier Festival park is 75 acres and can accommodate over 100,000 people on a single day. it’s big, is what I’m saying here. Big big big. Expect a lot of walking. Develop Summerfest Feet (See Advanced Stuff).
Some days, you’ll walk from one end of the park to the other five or ten times. It’s a big place.
When crowds are heavy, the path along the Lake usually is somewhat less crowded. Also, the Sky Glider can get you from one end to the other, avoiding the worst of the crowd, and give your feet a rest. Don’t spit on the people below you.
Mainly, take a break. Sit on a picnic table and have a beer. You deserve it.
Shun the Masses
There are lots of big stages with some pretty big names. But many people don’t realize that if you might want something other than being packed in with 8,000 of the band’s OTHER closest friends, there are alternatives.
REFUGEE STAGE. Located on the east side of the park, right behind Robby’s Corn roast, you won’t even find this stage listed on the schedule; try the Refugee Stage website. It’s a small stage put on by local musicians, for local musicians, and they only get paid when people throw in tips or buy merch. So if you’ve been feeling guilty for not supporting struggling musicians, stop by and contribute. In fact, even if you’re not feeling guilty stop by and give them money, these guys work pretty damn hard. [UPDATE] it seems that the Refugee stage is no more. Shame. We will miss it terribly.]
CASCIO STAGE [UPDATE. Now known as the KNE stage. It will always be Cascio to me]. Walk north along the Lake from the Ref Stage, and you wind up at another local showcase (if you are suddenly among the long haired hard rock big hair crowd, you’ve walked too far and are at the Rock Stage. Do not panic and back away slowly). In fact, it started with the same kind of humble origins, in reaction to the complaint that Summerfest was ignoring the local musicians that helped the festival get big. Tons of good local talent here, and we always walk by several times a day and invariably find some good stuff here that we were not aware of.
EMERGING ARTISTS. Although this is on one of the bigger stages, it is an early day program to highlight young and yes, emerging artists. If you get there early enough, you can even grab a free sampler CD with some of the bands. But everyday, from 3 PM to 8PM, the stage features young bands trying to make it big. Again, there is almost always something here we find worthwhile.
SCHEDULE. The printed schedules that fit in your pocket have to go to print weeks ago, before all the slots are filled. The Summerfest Web site is not a paragon of usability. The best bet is the booklet included in the local alternative weekly, the Shepherd Express.
However, I recommend you hit one of the info stands near the entries. They have daily one sheets (in COLOR this year yay!) that have the most current info for each stage. Indispensable.
Also, if you have a smartphoney, there is a Summerfest App that is pretty good; the schedule app is organized by day and time, so it is easy to check and see what is coming up. Or what you are missing out on.
Get the Poop….
However, there are still a few porto-johns in select locations, in misguided nostalgia for earlier days, I suspect.
Don’t use them. Believe me on this. 20 year old inexperienced drunks used those.
Also, contact highs.