In Festival Guide

Summerfest 50 brought in big crowds - the biggest since 2014, according to the Big Gig. (PHOTO: VISIT Milwaukee)

Summerfest scores its highest attendance since 2014

It probably felt this way – except maybe on that drizzly Day 1 – but Thursday it was confirmed: The crowds showed up for Summerfest 50.

Summerfest announced its official numbers today, scoring a total attendance of 831,769 – an increase of 3.4 percent over last year, and the best-attended Big Gig since 2014. However, the Biggest Gig didn't quite bring in its biggest audience in the past decade; that title still belongs to 2007 – the 40th anniversary – when Summerfest drew 892,005 into the festival grounds.

Still, the growth for the Big Gig over the past several years – rebounding from 2015's low year of 772,652, which battled cold and rainy weather, as well as the Milwaukee County Transit System strike – has been constant.

Plus, this year, the festival grew its national and global profile by teaming up with the L.A.-based "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" late-night TV show, which both announced its much-anticipated grounds stage lineup and live streamed select concerts throughout Summerfest via the show's new website,

"As our 50th edition comes to a close, we want to thank all of our fans, sponsors, volunteers, vendors and staff who celebrated with us," Don Smiley, Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. President and CEO, said in a press release. "Looking ahead, we will continue to make significant improvements ensuring a world-class fan experience for all visiting Summerfest, the ethnic festivals, and all events at Henry Maier Festival Park."

In other numbers news, according to Summerfest's official tally, the festival hosted 98,180 Skyglider trips, 3,714 Badger Meter Paddleboat Water Experience rides and 19,170 golf club whacks at the Meijer Hole-In-One with CBS 58 and 540 ESPN – though nobody managed to actually sink the shot. The food numbers haven't been released yet, but you'll know when they are, because your arteries will suddenly start hurting.

Other than our mediocre chip-shot game, though, Summerfest 50– from the numbers to the overwhelmingly terrific shows we reviewed – was clearly a success. Take that, Day 1 downpour.

And here's to turning 51 next year!


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