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Milwaukee Summerfest Preview

Nightlife & Music Summer Fest Logo
Photo Credit:

By Jacky Runice

Maier Festival Park
200 N Harbor Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53274
(414) 273-2680

Dates: Noon to Midnight June 27––July 1 and July 3––July 8, 2012
Price: General Admission $16 and Weekday tickets (Tuesday – Friday, prior to 4 p.m.) $9. 45th Anniversary Power Pass for all 11 days for only $45. Purchase here.

The other city on the lake, Milwaukee, shakes its "Chicago Jr." label every year when Summerfest outshines any of the Windy City's outdoor musical events. Chicagoans will head north and take in the world's largest music festival at Henry Maier Festival Park. Taking place since the late 60s (though not always in the same 75-acre location it's held in now), the festival has been attracting nearly a million visitors each year since. In addition to the festival's musical component of 700 bands performing on 11 stages, visitors will find family-friendly activities, tons of shopping and great food.

Related: Best Chicago Rooftop Lounges

Joe Don Rooney (L), Jay DeMarcus (C) and Gary LeVox of the group Rascal Flatts
(Photo credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

While the main stage of the festival, Marcus Amphitheater, can house an astonishing 23,000 people, there will also be 10 other stages in which music lovers can catch their favorite acts. New to Summerfest this year is the BMO Harris Pavilion, a covered stage that is the star to Milwaukee World Festival, Inc.'s two-year, $35,000,000 redevelopment project. Located on the sound end of Henry Maier Festival Park, this gigantic pavilion can accommodate seating for 10,000.  Expect spectacular views of downtown Milwaukee and Lake Michigan and a wave-inspired roof, covering more than an acre of space.

With performances from all genres, including R&B, blues, gospel, children's music, Latin, hip hop and folk, among others, there is literally something to suit every musical taste at Summerfest. Here are some of this year's most anticipated events and acts. See a full rundown of scheduled bands, stages and showtimes here.

Rascal Flatts
Wednesday, June 27 at Marcus Amphitheater at 7:30 p.m.

Mainstream country music band Rascal Flatts will open this year's Summerfest at the Marcus Amphitheater. Loved by honky tonk fans and indie music lovers alike, this band is sure to kick of the festival on the right musical note. Joining the band will be guests Little Big Town, Eli Young Band and Eden's Edge. Also performing Wednesday will be Steve Miller Band, Gov't Mule and Lupe Fiasco.

The 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards - Outside Concerts
(Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Foo Fighters
Thursday, June 28 at Marcus Amphitheater at 7:30 p.m.

The world renowned Foo Fighers will  be performing on day two of Summerfest, and is sure to rock the stage of Marcus Amphitheater. The alt-rock band has kept its fan base since its inception in the early 90s, but it also continues to gain popularity among new generations of rock lovers as it re-invents itself time and again. The 11-time Grammy Award winning band is sure to be playing both old and new hits. Later in the day catch Ben Folds Five, Gary Allan and Eric Paslay.

Jimmy Cliff
Friday, June 29 at Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard at 10 p.m

Marley may be gone, but Jimmy Cliff, a reggae icon, is here at Summerfest this year. Also catch Train, Kelly Clarkson, The Hives and Hot Sauce on this jam-packed musical showcase on Friday.

Tiёsto with special guests Steve Aoki, Zedd, R3hab, Tommy Trash and Pierce Fulton
Marcus Amphitheater, Tuesday, July 3 at 3 p.m.

This is the first large electronic dance music show for Summerfest and the production and lighting should be nothing short of stunning. The Dutch musician, DJ and electronic dance music wizard can claim the first concert live-streamed on Twitter.

The Avett Brothers with special guest The Wheeler Brothers
BMO Harris Pavilion, Thursday, July 5 at 8 p.m.

Some are saying this is the pick of the festival - a real "get" for Summerfest and a ton of Midwestern fans for this band of brothers. Also watch the Zac Brown Band and Death Cab for Cutie perform on July 5.

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Aerosmith with special guest Cheap Trick
Marcus Amphitheater, Saturday, July 7 at 8 p.m.

Even though the term "rock star" gets bandied about for chefs, politicians, writers and others, Aerosmith may be why the moniker was invented. Hot from his American Idol judging gig, Steven Tyler may be attracting new fans from youngsters to grannies. Expect big hair, lungs, scarves and quite a show.

Related: Getting To Know A Chicago Musician: Tom Schleiter

Additional info: If you're coming from Chicago, take the train and reserve a room at one of the Marcus Hotels (Hilton Milwaukee City Center, The Pfister Hotel or InterContinental Milwaukee Hotel) where they offer special Summerfest packages or check out for additional lodging.

Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at

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