Summerfest announced its 2023 dates today: June 22-24, June 29 – July 1, and July 6-8. So yeah, the 2023 Big Gig (the festival’s 55th anniversary!) will do the three-“Thursday-Friday-Saturday”-weekend thing again.

Why? Because people like it, apparently. Well, sort of. Summerfest says it partnered with two national market research companies to conduct a patron survey, and found that 80% of respondents “said Friday and Saturday were among their three most preferred days to attend Summerfest.” Therefore, says Summerfest, “hosting the festival over three consecutive weekends will allow more Friday and Saturday event days.”

Note that folks didn’t explicitly say they liked the three-weekend format—just that they like going on Fridays and Saturdays. (We’re guessing Sunday was the other “preferred day.”)

The three-weekend explanation/justification continues:

In addition, 85% of respondents identified headlining entertainment and a lineup featuring a variety of music genres as reasons for why they attend the festival. A three-weekend format provides an extended booking window for the Summerfest entertainment team, offering more opportunities to add national talent throughout the day, while continuing to deliver one of the most diverse music festival lineups in the world.

“Since its inception, Summerfest’s goal has been to provide a world class music festival and gathering place for the community to enjoy,” says Don Smiley, CEO of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., in a press release. “As we celebrate our 55th anniversary, we feel fortunate to have a passionate fanbase. It is important to be responsive to fans’ interests by providing more opportunities to attend on weekends, bringing more national touring artists, and offering an enhanced Summerfest experience.”

Summerfest first tried a three-weekend format in 2021. Previously, the fest had been held over a continuous block of 12 days, with a single Monday off. Attendance for 2022 was 445,611—up 8.8% from 2021’s COVID-era installment, but still way down from pre-pandemic numbers.

Also revealed in the 2022 survey: people like Summerfest in general! Some stats:

• 93% say Summerfest is part of the fabric of Milwaukee’s culture and community

• 92% look forward to Summerfest every year

• 90% say Summerfest is a tradition they value

• 87% agree Summerfest generates an economic impact

“As the City of Festivals and a cornerstone of the Milwaukee community, we are humbled to see our fans, sponsors, and partners unrivaled positive sentiments toward the festival,” Smiley says. “We look forward to the opportunities ahead to continue to serve
our community in the best way possible for many years to come, and the 55th edition in 2023 promises to be exciting and memorable.”

What do we think of the three-weekend format? Some excerpts from our previous piece about that very thing:

Tyler: Still, I get it. I really do. After missing an entire year in 2020 and making changes just to simply allow the festival to happen in 2021, it absolutely makes sense to cut operating costs, reduce booking expenses, and to let both the labor market and the comfort level of festival-goers bounce back with an event that lasts nine days instead of 11 for the time being. There are a lot of factors at play here, and the entertainment landscape has changed in innumerable ways since Summerfest started more than 50 years ago. While recognizing and respecting all of that, I still think it’s kind of unfortunate to see “The World’s Largest Music Festival” become noticeably smaller.

Matt: I’m just happy Summerfest is back, period. It’s such a big, weird, hilarious, enjoyable, and uniquely Milwaukee thing. I don’t care if 900,000 people show up every year, or if 400,000 people show up. As long as it happens in the summer, in Milwaukee, on the lakefront, with thousands of friendly folks and hundreds of disparate bands and artists, I’m satisfied. That’s a vibe that can’t be replicated, and can’t be lost.

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Is Summerfest’s three-weekend format better or worse than the old format?

Summerfest 2022’s attendance was 445,611

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Co-Founder and Editor

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