In a Thursday-at-6-p.m. press release titled “Summerfest 2022 Celebrates Music & Community. Festival Fulfills Nonprofit Mission Despite Challenges Resulting from Pandemic,” Summerfest announced—let’s scroll down here…okay, keep scrolling—that 445,611 fans attended the 2022 Big Gig. That’s up 8.8% from last year’s COVID-era installment, but still way down from pre-pandemic numbers.

“This year’s results highlight the current state of the event industry as we continue to manage through the impact of the last few years,” Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. said in a statement. “Given the lasting effect of the pandemic, the world has changed and, accordingly, the music festival business has changed as well. In 2020, MWF stated it would take years to fully recover and that is what we—and others—have experienced in 2022.”

Summerfest 2021—a.k.a. the one that was held over three weekends in late summer and required proof of vaccination—drew 409,386 fans. Summerfest 2020 didn’t happen at all. Summerfest 2019 drew 718,144 fans—at the time, the fest’s lowest attendance since 1986. (Summerfest attendance topped the 1 million mark in 2001 and 2002.)

“While we did not top pre-pandemic attendance levels, our fans were happier than ever to enjoy live music in our world-class festival setting,” the statement continued. “As we reflect on this year’s festival, we are celebrating a return to our traditional summer timeframe, a strong response to our hiring initiatives and a record year for sponsorships. We thank the artists, fans, vendors, staff, and sponsors for their support—it was a great run.”

So what outside forces beyond the festival’s control were to blame this year? Yep, the annual “blame game” was included in the press release. Just like old times! According to Summerfest, this year’s culprits were:

• Changes in consumer spending habits related to both the COVID-19 pandemic as well as increasing inflation over the past several months.

• A reduction of transportation options with the elimination of busing from several private providers as well as Milwaukee County Transit System.

• A crowded concert calendar because of COVID-19 pandemic.

• An unprecedented loss of eight nationally known artists throughout the festival, notably Justin Bieber’s sold-out concert, which was postponed.

• Summerfest’s group ticket sales results were down 46% over pre-pandemic levels, which can be attributed to changes in work-at-home policies for many employers.

Sadly, perennial scapegoat “the weather” didn’t make this year’s list, because the weather was gorgeous.

So there you go. For what it’s worth, we had a great time at Summerfest this year. If the fest never returns to the days of drawing 800,000-1,000,000 fans, so be it. More room to walk around/breathe! As for the continuation of the three-weekend format, we have some opinions.

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Co-Founder and Editor

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