Remember when the end of summer was also kinda-sorta the end of Milwaukee’s festival season? Those were simpler (and much more boring) times. Thankfully, as live, in-person events are starting to return in a big way, the city’s already-bursting list of festivals, block parties, and other ambitious entertainment undertakings is extending well into autumn. As you get ready to have an awesome autumn, Here is Milwaukee Record’s fall festival guide.
Milwaukee Paranormal Conference @ various locations
After an online-only 2020, the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference is back! The weekend celebration of the strange and unusual is set to take place September 24-26 at various locations in and around Milwaukee. (The bulk of the con will take place at Alverno College.) The theme for this year’s con is “Wisconsin, Good Land of Paranormal.” Expect plenty of panels on Milwaukee-based poltergeists, the “Lake Michigan Triangle,” and, yes, the fabled Haunchyville. Will there be a Haunchyville coloring sheet to go along with the “Voyage to Haunchyville” panel? YES.
Harvest Fair @ Wisconsin State Fair Park
Miss the Wisconsin State Fair? Well, you can get a fall-focused fairgrounds fix with the Harvest Fair. From September 24-26, the State Fair Park will host live music from the likes of The 5 Card Studs and Rhythm Kings, lumberjack competitions, rides, pumpkin bowling, and “harvest fare” including two types of specialty seasonal Cream Puffs.
Milwaukee Oktoberfest @ War Memorial Center
The 11th annual Milwaukee Oktoberfest will bring live music, German food and beer from Kegel’s Inn, a Miss Oktoberfest Pageant, a Wiener Dog Beauty Pageant, a brat eating contest, and much more to the lakefront beside the War Memorial Center. They had us at “Wiener Dog Beauty Pageant” and again at “brat eating contest.”
Fromm Petfest @ Henry Maier Festival Park
Following a one-year FURlough (sorry!) in 2020, Fromm Petfest returns to the Summerfest grounds for a day of fun for the whole family…including four-legged family members. The annual animal-focused event will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and it’s free to attend.
Equinox Music Festival @ The Brewery District (various locations)
Just because summer is over doesn’t mean Milwaukee will be short on festivals going into the fall. For proof, look no further than Equinox music fest, set for Saturday, September 25 in the city’s Brewery District. The mostly outdoor fest will take place in and around Best Place, Bottle House 42, and Nō Studios. The stacked local lineup includes Vincent Van Great, Abby Jeanne, WebsterX, Zed Kenzo, Klassik, Johanna Rose, Valerie Lightheart, Immortal Girlfriend, Paper Holland, and many more!
Third Space Five Year Anniversary Party @ Third Space Brewing
Over its five-year run, Third Space Brewing has quickly fashioned a reputation as one of the city’s best and most inventive breweries. Along the way, they’ve gained statewide distribution and have helped bring new life to the Menomonee Valley by way of its wonderful taproom. That brewery/taproom will host Third Space’s Five Year Anniversary Party on Saturday, September 25, which will feature live music, food trucks, sustainability education provided by local nonprofits, special beer releases, and archived beer tappings.
Maker Faire Milwaukee @ MSOE Kern Center
“Part science fair, part county fair, Maker Faire showcases creative work in dozens of fields—technology, art, engineering, and a lot more!” Sounds pretty darn cool to us! Head over to the MSOE Kern Center September 25-26.
Love, Milwaukee Block Party @ Lincoln Warehouse
Food trucks, beer, cocktails, and live DJs will be on hand at the Lincoln Warehouse on October 1 during what’s being called the “Love, Milwaukee Block Party.” Breweries from all over the city will be on tap, with Immy’s African Cuisine and Transfer feeding the masses.
Oktoberfest Weekend at Estabrook Park
Estabrook Park will host three days worth of keg tappings, live music, stein holding competitions, and vaguely Germanic merriment during its Oktoberfest Weekend October 1-3.
The Lowdown @ Indeed Brewing Company
For the third straight year, Indeed Brewing Company will host The Lowdown inside and outside of its Walker’s Point taproom. From noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday, October 2, the brewery will shut down a portion of Second Street for an all-day festival featuring tasty beer (some of which is event-exclusive!), great music, and fall fun. There will also be live art from Jeff Redmon, on-site food from Twisted Plants, and “The Beer Brûlée Experience” in which hot fire pokers are used to caramelize pints of beer. Oh, and there will also be live music from the likes of You Win !!!, Browns Crew, Chicken Wire Empire, Dropbear Collective, and a remote broadcast by The Boogie Bang.
Autumn Block Party @ Enlightened Brewing Company
The last block party Enlightened Brewing Company will host this year will be an especially good one. The Bay View brewery will serve up great beers (including its new Cosmic Hazy IPA, three new varieties from its “Rough Draught” series, and some obscure brews from its cellar), tasty treats from Vanguard, and tunes from Sweet Sheiks and The Westerlees.
Brady Street Pet Parade @ Brady Street
After an all-virtual parade in 2020, the city’s finest good boys, pretty girls, and parrots (and their human companions) will once again have a chance to strut their stuff in the flesh/fur. The family-friendly event will run from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. The parade, which starts at 1 p.m., will head west from Brady Street and Franklin Place to Cass Street. Then, it will head south to St. Rita’s Catholic Church, 1601 N. Cass St., for the pet blessing by Father Tim Kitzke of St. Hedwig Three Holy Women Parish. There will be prizes and music, too! Will FOX6’s Ted Perry and Gothic Milwaukee’s Anna Laridnois serve as celebrity judges? Yes. Will Trapper Schoepp provide post-parade live music? Yes. Oh, and Milwaukee Record‘s own Matt Wild will be the emcee.
Milwaukee Comedy Festival @ The Laughing Tap (and other locations)
Following an abbreviated 2020 edition that featured fewer shows, far smaller audiences, a more localized lineup, and many more protective face coverings than ever before, Milwaukee Comedy Festival is getting back to normal in 2021. This year’s festival is scheduled to return to The Laughing Tap (and other area venues) October 3-10. While the full lineup and the entire list of shows isn’t known quite yet, the state’s largest and longest-running comedy festival has announced Neil Hamburger, Myq Kaplan, and Lara Beitz as headliners.
PridetoberFest @ Henry Maier Festival Grounds
Described as a “scaled-back version” of PrideFest (which is normally held in June), the two-day PridetoberFest will occupy a smaller chunk of the Summerfest grounds, but will still “activate multiple stages that engage a diverse lineup of entertainment with a particular focus on local acts, performers, and shows.” And yes, There Will Be Food Trucks.
Beet Street Harvest Festival @ Cactus Club
Following four years of family-friendly, fall-focused fun (and taking 2020 off for pandemic-related reasons), Cactus Club has decided to bring its Beet Street Harvest Festival back for another installment. On Saturday, October 9, the Bay View bar will host a day of food, drinks, live music, and festival fun for all ages. That day, a chunk of Wentworth Avenue between Goodkind and Cactus Club will be blocked off for the fifth annual event. Among the acts confirmed to play Beet Street so far are Frankie & The Witch Fingers out of Los Angeles and Acid Dad from New York.
Crusherfest @ Downtown South Milwaukee
Good news, turkeynecks and turkeyneck-adjacent bums: According to its website, Crusherfest is set to return to South Milwaukee on Saturday, October 9, and Sunday, October 10. Crusherfest 2021 will be the long-awaited second installment of the homegrown festival. Crusherfest 2020 was canceled due to COVID-19. Crusherfest, of course, is the celebration of South Milwaukee wrestling legend Reggie “Da Crusher” Lisowski. Back in 2019, a life-sized bronze statue of Lisowski was unveiled at the inaugural Crusherfest. According to the website, there’ll be a bags tournament, a Sunday market, a “Mr. Saloon Contest,” and live music.
Harvest Block Party @ Great Lakes Distillery
Great Lakes Distillery and Lakefront Brewery are joining forces for a festive night of fall fun. The Harvest Block Party will feature both hot and cold craft cocktails, seasonal and limited-release beers, live music from Gin Hollow and High & Rising, chili, fire pits, and more on a chunk of Virginia Street in Walker’s Point. The fun starts at 6 p.m. and keeps rolling until 10 o’clock.
Midwest Gaming Classic @ Wisconsin Center
Since that unheralded outset as a way “to celebrate the Atari Jaguar,” the Midwest Gaming Classic has ballooned in popularity, taking over virtually every inch of the Brookfield Sheraton every spring before eventually moving to the more than 150,000 square foot confines of the Wisconsin Center in 2018. After two years at the new venue, the 2020 was understandably canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis. Thankfully, the pandemic didn’t mean “Game Over” for the event. This November 5-7, the Midwest Gaming Classic will return to the Wisconsin Center for three days of game play and special guests.
Milwaukee Comic Convention @ Wisconsin State Fair Park
Behold! More than 300 tables of comics, collectibles, characters, and more will be on hand at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds on November 13 during the Milwaukee Comic Convention.
Mama Tried Motorcycle Show @ The Rave
Last March, Mama Tried (and its affiliated festivities) was among the first Milwaukee events canceled on account of COVID concerns. At long last, the sprawling indoor invitational that showcases an amazing array of more than 200 custom-built bikes will return to The Rave for two days of chopper-related celebration December 4-5. And don’t forget about Flat Out Friday at Fiserv Forum on December 3 and various other Mama Tried-affiliated events TBA.
Hover Craft @ The Pritzlaff Building
Since 2009, Hover Craft has brought skilled local artists, crafters, retailers, and others residing beneath the broad “maker” umbrella together to bring Milwaukee-made goods to area consumers during the holiday season. Like pretty much every event happening in or around the city, Hover Craft canceled its 2020 event on account of COVID-19 concerns. However, it’ll return to The Pritzlaff Building on Sunday, December 5.