Call it the Summerfest Sausage Shakeup.

Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. announced on Friday that Sheboygan Falls-based sausage purveyor Johnsonville is the new “Official Sausage, Hot Dog, and Sausage Stick of Summerfest.” Not only that, but Johnsonville will be the sponsor of the Johnsonville Summerville area on the north end of the Summerfest grounds. The Summerville area will feature “an intimate outdoor patio-like stage area spotlighting Wisconsin-based artists,” as well as “grilling demonstrations and contests, sampling of new Johnsonville products, backyard games such as cornhole, a pop-up Johnsonville Marketplace store and other promotions.”

If all this sounds familiar, it’s because the “Official Sausage” designation and stage sponsorship was previously (and briefly) held by another local sausage purveyor, Klement’s.

Back in 2018, Summerfest and Klement’s entered into what was supposed to be a 10-year sponsorship deal. The deal included the “Official Sausage” title and the construction of the new Klement’s Sausage & Beer Garden—a.k.a. The Area Now Known As Johnsonville Summerville. “We are thrilled to welcome Klement’s Sausage Company to our sponsorship family with a ten year commitment,” said Don Smiley, President and CEO of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., at the time.

Things turned sour in 2022, however, when Klement’s (and its California-based parent company, Tall Tree Foods) attempted to terminate its contract with Summerfest. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

MWF informed Klement’s/Tall Tree Foods that they would need to carry out their 2022 sponsorship duties, but that the parties “could explore potential options for terminating the rest of the agreement.” About one month before Summerfest, Klement’s/Tall Tree Foods communicated its intent to move forward with the 2022 stage sponsorship, the complaint said.

However, “the parties failed to come to an amicable agreement to terminate the agreement for 2023 through 2027,” the complaint said.

The Big Gig responded by suing Klement’s for unpaid sponsorship money. “Klement’s/Tall Tree Foods has yet to pay $140,000 for their 2022 sponsorship fee as of the date of the complaint, the complaint alleges,” the Journal Sentinel reports. “The complaint also alleged that Klement’s/Tall Tree Foods ‘consistently’ was late paying its invoices to MWF.”

Summerfest sued Klement’s for more than $1 million. Per the Journal Sentinel again:

What MWF is asking for includes the 2022 sponsorship fee and the reimbursement totaling $140,473; $885,000 for the stage sponsorship from 2023 through 2027; the total cost for removing, remodeling or replacing the Klement’s Sausage and Beer Garden; and punitive damages, per the complaint.

That lawsuit was recently dropped, however, and now Johnsonville is the new “Official Sausage of Summerfest.” Huh! Also, remember in early 2018 when Johnsonville replaced Klement’s as the sponsor of the Milwaukee Brewers’ Famous Racing Sausages? Double huh!

So there you go. The Summerfest Sausage Shakeup! Summerfest 2023 will once again take place over three consecutive Thursday-Saturday blocks: June 22-24, June 29-July 1, and July 6-8. Here’s today’s sausage-related press release:

Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., and Johnsonville, LLC Announce New Multi-Year Sponsorship
Includes New Johnsonville Summerville Space and Designation as Official Sausage of Summerfest

MILWAUKEE, WI (February 10, 2023) – Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. officials are excited to announce Sheboygan-Falls based and family-owned Johnsonville as a new sponsor of Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance.

The multi-year agreement will begin with Summerfest 2023, the 55th anniversary of the festival. The partnership includes the Johnsonville Summerville footprint and stage, and the designation as the Official Sausage, Hot Dog, and Sausage Stick of Summerfest.

The Johnsonville Summerville footprint will be located on the North End of Henry Maier Festival Park, featuring an intimate outdoor patio-like stage area spotlighting Wisconsin-based artists. Throughout the Summerville area, fans will also enjoy grilling demonstrations and contests, sampling of new Johnsonville products, backyard games such as cornhole, a pop-up Johnsonville Marketplace store and other promotions.

Johnsonville products – from brats, cheddar smoked sausages, hot dogs, chicken sausage and its new summer sausage snack sticks – will also be available for sale at Summerville and throughout Henry Maier Festival Park during Summerfest.

“The Johnsonville founders started their family in Milwaukee, with Ralph being born here. Even today, with the current family owners living in the greater Milwaukee area, our connection and involvement here have always been priorities to the family and the business,” said Shelly Stayer, Johnsonville owner and board chair. She added that she and husband Ralph attend Summerfest every year. “We’re no strangers to partnering with major Wisconsin sporting and entertainment organizations, so wherever the fun takes place, Johnsonville enjoys being a part of that and adding to that fun.”

“As one of Wisconsin’s family-owned legacy companies, we are thrilled to have Johnsonville join our roster of sponsors at Summerfest as we celebrate our 55th anniversary,” said Don Smiley, CEO of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. “This new partnership celebrates hometown pride and provides the opportunity to showcase the Johnsonville brand and products during the festival.”

For more information visit

About Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance
Located in downtown Milwaukee, Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance is one of the most iconic celebrations of music in America, hosting the industry’s biggest acts for an unforgettable live music experience. Since its inception in 1968, Summerfest continues to distinguish itself as a premier national music festival and has developed an unrivaled reputation, consistently featuring hundreds of performances across 12 stages, throughout the 75-acre festival grounds along Lake Michigan. The 2023 edition consists of three weekends (Thursdays – Saturdays) June 22-24, June 29-July 1, and July 6-8, 2023. For the latest information, visit, or Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok: @Summerfest.

Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., producer of Summerfest, continues to fulfil its nonprofit mission of bringing the community together and providing a showcase for performing arts, activities, and recreation to the public, through music and special events.

About Johnsonville, LLC
Wisconsin-based Johnsonville is the No. 1 national sausage brand, selling and serving more than 80 different varieties of sausage across 40+ countries and in more than 75 U.S. professional, semi-pro and college sports stadiums. Founded in 1945 by the late Ralph F. and Alice Stayer, Johnsonville remains a family-owned company of obsessed sausage-makers that employs and develops approximately 3,000 members globally.

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Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.