Heads up, David Seebach and other kiddie performers—you’re getting some new digs at Summerfest.

Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. and Northwestern Mutual announced a major redevelopment and reimagining of Summerfest’s Northwestern Mutual Children’s Theater & Playzone on Wednesday morning. Accessible playground surfaces, new playground equipment, new restrooms, new stages, and new programming are just some of the highlights.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with the Northwestern Mutual Foundation to provide children and families of our community a fun and accessible entertainment experience. The redevelopment of this area has been a priority for some time, and we cannot wait to see the children enjoying this new amenity,” said Don Smiley, President and CEO of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., in a press release. “We are exceptionally grateful to all of our sponsors for their support in making Henry Maier Festival Park a world-class venue for fans of all ages.”

The new park will open in 2021. Here are the renderings:

On a personal note, Milwaukee Record has a soft spot for the old, dinged-up kiddie stage, having programmed music and comedy there for a few years during PrideFest. At least we’ll always have this Wayne & Wingnut video. (The full press release is below.)


Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. Announces Redevelopment of  Northwestern Mutual Children’s Theater & Playzone as Community Park
Park to feature one of the most accessible playgrounds in Wisconsin

MILWAUKEE, WI (October 7, 2020) – Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. and Northwestern Mutual, through its Foundation, today announced a major capital revitalization project for the Northwestern Mutual Children’s Theater & Playzone, which has been in place at Henry Maier Festival Park since 2006.

A premiere destination for families within the region, the new Northwestern Mutual Community Park will continue to be a featured area at Summerfest, as well as the cultural and ethnic festivals. In addition, Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. will make the Northwestern Mutual Community Park available to the public during non-event days, encouraging the broader community to access this new amenity throughout the summer.

Priorities of the redevelopment project include updating the area with accessible playground surfaces and completely new play equipment, as well as reconfiguring the area for adaptable activation areas and exhibit spaces. As the expectations of families have changed over time, the project intends to better meet those needs through new family restrooms and a flexible and accessible stage area for enhanced, family-focused programming delivered in an environmentally-conscious design.

A guiding priority of the design is to offer inclusive play for children who may experience a variety of challenges. The Northwestern Mutual Community Park aims to be one of the most accessible playgrounds in the entire state of Wisconsin.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with the Northwestern Mutual Foundation to provide children and families of our community a fun and accessible entertainment experience. The redevelopment of this area has been a priority for some time, and we cannot wait to see the children enjoying this new amenity,” said Don Smiley, President and CEO of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. “We are exceptionally grateful to all of our sponsors for their support in making Henry Maier Festival Park a world-class venue for fans of all ages.”

“Cultural attractions create connections and offer new experiences for residents and visitors,” said Eric Christophersen, President, Northwestern Mutual Foundation. “We’re proud to continue to partner with Summerfest through this redevelopment. Through investments like these, we’re helping to actively ensure that everyone can participate in the thriving cultural environment our hometown city of Milwaukee offers.”

This announcement is the continuation of an ongoing partnership with the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, which began in 2006, when the company became a major festival supporter as the name-in-title sponsor of the children’s area, as well as the “Make a Child Smile Day” admission promotion. Over time, tens of thousands of children’s books have been donated to area non-profit organizations such as Next Door and Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, through this promotion.

As provided in the lease between the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., this capital project is subject to the review and approval of the Board of Harbor Commissioners on behalf of the City of Milwaukee.

Eppstein Uhen Architect is the lead architectural firm for the design of the Northwestern Mutual Community Park and JCP Construction is managing the construction of the project.

About The Author

Co-Founder and Editor

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

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