11:03 pm 6/29/17
Today I thought I’d take a break from all the somber posts and write about a the annual music festival, Summerfest. Summerfest started yesterday at the lakefront in Milwaukee. This is a major deal around here. Almost as big a deal as the Packers, but not quite.
Every year, Dennis and I see a band that’s playing that we would like to see. We talk about getting tickets. We plan what favorite food vendors we’ll visit and what we’ll eat first. Then we remember the traffic, the lack of parking, the crowds and the super-grody bathrooms (that’s more my thing than his). Ultimately, the bad out weighs the good, and we decide to stay home.
I guess that means we’re getting old. Or are we already old? Maybe I don’t want to know.
That being said, I do have many fond memories of Summerfest. Attendance was basically a rite of passage for growing up in the Milwaukee area in the 1980’s — and I believe it still is today.
Here are 5 of my favorite Summerfest memories:
- Seeing Helen Reddy with my parents, my grandparents and my BABYSITTER (no idea why they brought her along) at the old main stage. I remember it was super hot and sunny and we were sitting on bleachers with no shade. My parents must have hated it. I was probably 7 or 8 so it must have been around 1974 or so. It seemed like we waited for hours for Helen to come out and when she did she was wearing all black, with sequins. I remember being very impressed by her outfit. I don’t think we stayed long. How my mother ever got my father and my grandfather to see Helen Reddy, I’ll never know.
- My girlfriend and I were part of several bowling leagues at Red Carpet Lanes one summer when I was 21, and we got lots of free Summerfest tickets from Red Carpet. After we had gone down to Summerfest several times to see all the bands we wanted to see (it runs for around 10 days each year) we still had leftover tickets. One night after we were done bowling with the league, we drove down to Summerfest at 10 pm (it closed at midnight) in her black Cougar with red leather seats. It was a warm night and we drove with the windows down while blasting music from cassette mix tapes the whole way. We shopped the craft vendors and got Saz’s mozzarella marinara (Mozzarella sticks wrapped in wonton wrappers and deep fried. So good!) and went home. We never gave a thought to getting up for work in the morning, or how far we’d have to walk or if we’d get stuck in traffic on the way home. We just went on a whim and it was awesome.
- Being allowed to skip out on a family Fourth of July get-together with my 2nd cousin and her family to go to Summerfest with my boyfriend. I don’t remember much about Summerfest itself that time, but being grown up enough to get to do my own thing — and on a holiday to boot, was pretty cool. I was 17.
- Sitting on the great big boulders that used to line the lakefront before they built the breakwaters and watching the Big Bang fireworks with my boyfriend. I was 18. (Same guy — different year.) It was always cooler by the shore thanks to the breeze off the lake, and the water lapped against the rocks in a slow rhythm. We listed to the strains of music from the bands nearby until he fireworks started. It was the epitome of romance to me at the time. (As opposed to now, when I think it’s romantic when Dennis is the one who gets up to pull the dog off a cat for the 4th or 5th time that night while I’m trying to watch Big Brother.)
- The most memorable Summerfest experience I had, and one that is still mentioned now and then as part of Summerfest-lore, was the great flood of 1987 when I was 20. I was there with my boyfriend (again, same guy, different year) and his 15 year-old sister and her friend. My boyfriend and I were at the mainstage watching INXS and the sister and friend were on their own in the park. A huge storm came through, and I mean h-u-g-e, and it flooded the entire park. They stopped the concert and closed the park and told everyone to leave. Everything was under at least a foot of water, if not more. Some people left the park right away. Many did not and chose to slosh around the grounds. We spent the better part of an hour searching for the sister and friend and we finally found them in the playground area, kicking water at eachother and having a grand old time. Boyfriend was not amused and it took us close to 2 hours to make our way home because the streets were either flooded or gridlocked in traffic. Good times.
Seriously. They were really good times that were never much about the music for me. It was always about the people I was with, the joy of being young and spontaneous, and the adrenaline of the shared energy with the crowds who were also young, joyful and spontaneous.
Maybe we should go see a band this year…
12:03 am 6/30/17