In Milwaukee History

Everyone, "from motorcycle gangs to gay liberationists to senior citizens."

10 photos that transport us back to Brady Street Festival, 1973

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Especially in this moment, when we can't be together and when the weather certainly doesn't look much like what you see in these photographs, it feels like stepping back in time and outside to the Brady Street of yore for the annual Brady Street Festival.

The event – organized by the Brady Street Merchants Group beginning, it seems, in 1971 –captured in these sunny photos by the then-17-year-old Jill Koutroules-Bruss, who gifted them along with many others to Adam Levin to share with the members of the Old Milwaukee Facebook group, took place on June 10, 1973 from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

The weather that year was less than cooperative that year. Rain showers stymied the original date a week earlier, though the dampness didn't prevent between 10,000 and 15,000 people from showing up that day anyway and crowding into stores and around booths to browse and shop, and, in the words of one newspaper, "Creating their Own Fair."

Most of the 200 vendors, however, waited it out until the rescheduled date, which turned out to be a hot one. Still 15,000-20,000 showed up and, the Journal noted, "the heat apparently cooled any rowdy instincts. ... Everyone from motorcycle gangs to gay liberationists to senior citizens gathered to munch tacos and buy arts and crafts."

There we no arrests and no incidents reported to police, the paper noted.

"It was a big deal for the East Side hippie/counterculture community," remembers Koutroules-Bruss, who also photographed the 1974 event. "A gathering of souls that didn't fit into the norms of society. You dressed the way you wanted to, toked and drank. I was 17 and a pretty free spirit. So that day was like being surrounded by friends and not 'the establishment.'

"Street musicians busked, people just hung out and partied, many artists sold their wares. I still have a few things I bought. I was crashing at a few houses that year, so I knew a lot of different groups. I also hung out at the River Queen, so there was the whole gay thing going on – that was more accepted on Brady Street."

That is definitely the vibe that comes through in these photos – taken, recalls the photographer, "while consuming wine and weaving between people" – of an event that continues to this day.

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