Guide to Winning Summer: Check Out Summerfest

The following is the latest installment in the "Badger Catholic's Totally Excellent Guide to Winning Summer."

File:Summerfest Pabst Showcase 1994.jpg
A look at the Summerfest grounds
This one might depend on your response to my post last week on what sort of music is acceptable to listen to as a Catholic.

If you've never been to Summerfest, it's something you absolutely must do at least once in your lifetime. Summerfest is the biggest music festival in the world, featuring hundreds of bands from different genres and drawing nearly a million people a year. It's basically like a fair, except there are bands instead of cows.

One of the great things about Summerfest is the price. Same-day admission is $17. If there's a band there that you'd really like to see, this is a steal. And while you go to Summerfest for the music, it's the festive atmosphere that really creates the experience. You can pop in and out of different concerts, grab a beverage, meal or snack, and enjoy the day however you'd like. I sometimes like to check in to see various radio personalities I enjoy broadcasting live from the grounds.

While general admission is $17, you do have to pay more to see the headliner at the Marcus Amphitheater. A ticket to see the headline act also include general admission for the rest of the day.

I'm not super impressed by the headliners this year, which is ok because I don't want to pay to see them anyway. The general admission stages are a different story.

My brother has spend the last few years complaining that the general stages include too many washed up bands and fewer up-and-coming acts. He might have a point. In the early-to-mid 2000s, my brother was able to see Velvet Revolver, Alter Bridge and a few other groups there. Back in the 90s, a performance at Summerfest was actually instrumental to launching Creed outside their native Florida. (I know this might be unforgivable for many, but I actually still defend Creed's debut album.)

But while my brother might be unimpressed by some bands whose acts have gotten stale, I--a child of the 90s--am pretty impressed. I would very much like to see the Barenaked Ladies (Thursday, July 4), but will almost certainly have other plans for Independence Day. If I go to Summerfest, it will probably be to see Blues Traveler a week earlier on Thursday, June 27. As far as more modern acts, I'd definitely enjoy seeing O.A.R on Friday, July 5 and would consider going to see Umphrey's McGee on Tuesday, July 2.

Living it Up
If you're going to go all out for Summerfest, you might as well see a headliner. The Marcus Amphitheater is a nice venue with some beautiful views. Tom Petty plays on June 28. Tickets for the lawn start at $45. Good seats will run you $125 each. To be honest, I'd also be pretty interested in seeing Tim McGraw on July 5. Tickets start at $51.

It's difficult for me to believe that the free market can support tickets starting at $45 to see the New Kids on the Block. If this is true, it's a sobering reminder that the economy has not yet hit rock bottom. Let's move on...

Eating at Summerfest is going to cost you. My brother once recommended the concession stand cheeseburger as the best in the land. That's some pretty high praise. Being Milwaukee, there is a pretty decent assortment of cold ones.

For the Budget Conscious
There are a lot of ways to save money going to Summerfest. For starters, if you go on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, general admission tickets are only $10 if you arrive before 4 p.m.
I attempted to take advantage of this when Laura and I went to see the Goo Goo Dolls in 2011. We hit traffic and arrived about ten minutes too late. I was furious. Fortunately, some dude and his wife tapped us on the shoulder as we headed for the ticket window. He'd won four free tickets through a radio promotion and said that since we were the second best looking couple at Summerfest, he'd be happy to give us the two that he wasn't using. Needless to say, I bought that guy's first beer.

Best looking couple at Summerfest? That dude obviously never saw this picture from 2004.

Summerfest also offers a number of promotions that give you the opportunity to score some free tickets. There are too many to list here, but you can check them out on the website. 


  1. You are the master of epic Steve Karlen photos. We should have a tag of "epic Steve Karlen photos"... hmmm....

  2. Whoever "Yuck'd" this, come hither and explain yourself!


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