The third Saturday of each—non-pandemic—year, Bay View Bash brings tens of thousands of people to the neighborhood’s Kinnickinnic Avenue causeway for approximately 12 hours worth of food, drinks, music, shopping, weird weightlifting demonstrations, and localized fun that serves to unofficially signal the end of another summer festival season in Milwaukee.
It’s one of my favorite festivals in the city. Of course, I might be biased because I live in Bay View (very much within walking distance of the large-scale block party) and, well, I’m directly involved with it. Since 2018, Bay View Bash organizers have graciously let me book musical talent for the “Milwaukee Record Stage,” a stage I also manage. To those who’ve never managed a stage at a massive local festival, the gig essentially entails tasks like booking a day’s worth of performers, negotiating payment and handling contracts, helping with setup and tear down of the stage and tents, making sure bands have backstage beverages, and keeping everything on our stage on a precise schedule (or as close to on schedule as the chaotic and unpredictable festival conditions allow).
Something that’s not a job requirement is reuniting lost children with their screaming parents. However, in September 2019, that’s exactly what I was doing. Before I get into that, let’s go back to about 45 minutes before the crazy moment that I’ll forever associate with Bay View Bash.
It all started that Saturday morning. While handling some of the aforementioned activities on our stage (which is situated between a church and an apartment building about half a block off Kinnickinnic on Russell Ave.), a panicked voice cut through the otherwise calm hum of pre-festival activity. “Finneas!!!” the voice bellowed. (Well, it wasn’t actually “Finneas,” but out of respect to those involved, I won’t use the real name. But let’s just say it was something on par with Finneas, OKAY?!) “FINNEAS!!!” the voice continued. I looked up as the sound got louder and saw a man running around the intersection of Kinnickinnic and Russell frantically, peering in every direction, screaming the distinct and unconventional name. It seemed to get louder and hold more desperation with each repetition.
I really felt for this guy, having lost either his dog or—more likely, based on the level of fear and distress in his voice and actions—his son. I couldn’t imagine how terrifying that feeling was and, even though I’m not a parent, I wouldn’t wish that situation on anyone. I wanted to help, but knowing there was nothing I could personally do and figuring there were countless other people nearby who were far better-equipped to assist him, I went back to my stage management activities. The voice soon vanished, only to come back a few minutes later, then vanish into the festivities once more.
As the start of the Bash was nearing, the area was getting louder with activity. Music was now bumping from a P.A. system. Vendors were showing up. Our opening act was sound checking. Meanwhile, concerns about the impending rain were growing, meaning we had to start promptly if we wanted to get the first two bands on and off the stage before it started (to quote the sound engineer…repeatedly) “pissing.” I didn’t hear the man’s voice anymore, so I figured he and “Finneas” were reunited and all was well. At least I prayed that was the case. So when Milwaukee Record’s own Josh Hoppert eventually showed up to assist me in the setup, I told him about the Finneas situation, and mentioned that I hoped/expected he was found because I hadn’t heard the dad’s voice in a while.
Minutes later, my hopes and expectations were dashed when the voice returned, now battling for recognition with the people flocking to the block party, as well as both recorded and live music now taking place. Enough time had passed for there to be real concern. My mind went to the best and worst outcomes that an absence of almost 30 minutes could have. But again, what could Josh and I do to help? Very little, I thought, before reluctantly—almost guiltily—going back to preparing the stage for a day of fun…at least for the people who weren’t currently experiencing the worst moment of their entire life. After a few more minutes (a few minutes without a “Finneas” because the man had ventured somewhere else down the six-block stretch of Bay View Bash territory), the Milwaukee Record Stage was in a good place and Josh and I had a few minutes to take a breather and enjoy a beer off to the side of our parcel of festival grounds. At that point, Josh heard something in the bushes.
We walked over to the area where he heard the sound and, after parting some leaves and branches we saw…a kid. I didn’t know if the kid laughing during an unexpected game of hide and seek he was decidedly winning was actually Finneas, but there were no other parents around, so I was willing to hedge my bets and assume it was. I told Josh to make sure the kid stayed put (but not in, like, a kidnapper-type way) and I ran towards the main drag in the middle of Kinnickinnic Ave. to find the guy. I quickly found the man, still screaming the name, and said something to the effect of “He’s over here!” Wordlessly, the guy sprinted alongside me the 40-50 yards to the bushes beside the apartment building where, thankfully, he was reunited with his child—or at least a kid he considered favorable enough to be Finneas’ replacement—and walked back to the thoroughfare with what I’m sure was a newfound appreciation for his son.
I didn’t share this memory to suggest that two Milwaukee Record staffers are heroes. That said, I’d love to know how many other publications reunited families through the years! All kidding aside, I suppose I’m mostly telling you this story because it’s something I’m sure I’ll remember each and every September when Bay View Bash time nears. I’m sure the dad will never forget it either, and “Finneas” surely will be reminded off it long after his memory of his time in those bushes fades. Also, I’m sharing this story because it had a happy ending. Because everything turned out favorably, a situation that started out terrifying for anyone in earshot, thankfully, turned into a lighthearted festival anecdote about that time my co-worker and I straight-up found a kid at Bay View Bash.
We hope to see you and your family at Bay View Bash this weekend. If you go, please keep a close eye on your children.