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BBQ Tour Stop #11 – Milwaukee Summerfest

July 7, 2009
Milwaukee Summerfest is billed as the World’s Largest Music Festival, with 11 music stages and over 700 bands playing over an 11-day period. We pulled onto the Summerfest grounds on Wednesday morning and set up at the base of the Skyglider. The Skyglider transports people from one end of the mile-long grounds to the other, situated right on Lake Michigan.

As we walked around the festival, it was great to hear the different genres of music and see the diverse group of people that attend the festival.

Last year, we saw families early in the afternoon with older crowds and couples arriving in the evening. We planned for two demonstrations on Thursday and Friday to cover both groups this year. Thursday night brought an outstanding firework show and throngs of people standing elbow to elbow down the midway, where we were set up. Our afternoon demonstration had such a crowd that we “bottlenecked” the traffic flow.

We have helpers that pass out information and sample bags at each of our events. It was no different in Milwaukee and we were blessed by having KCBS members come out to help. On Friday, Mike Bori of the cooking team Wild Boar-EE came out to help. As a local, he filled us in on some of the 20-year history of Summerfest. We also had Marjorie Rucker who is a Certified BBQ Judge and organizer of a local KCBS sanctioned event – MLK Street Jam & BBQ, which is held over Labor Day weekend. Rick, another CBJ, helped on Saturday and he even brought us some local food, Cheese Curds!

On Sunday afternoon, we held our Grill Master competition and were surprised when Smokey Joel of Team Cubby Bear stepped off the Skyglider with his daughter. We met him in Taylorville with Vince and the “Bucket of Fun.” There is no better person to judge the competition than a KCBS BBQ cook. Joel was up for the challenge and jumped right in to judge the competition. I think he liked being on that side of the table for once.

Band headliners for the days we were there included Bon Jovi, Keith Urban, KISS and Stevie Wonder. You could tell who had concert tickets because they were wearing concert shirts, especially the lady wearing a “Mrs. Bon Jovi” T-shirt. The fun ones were the people wearing KISS make-up, especially the little kids who were at the first concert of their young lives. There was one scary concert attendee. He was a guy wearing the full KISS getup including make-up, outfit and elevator shoes that made him close to 7’ tall!

Summerfest was a festival that we also attended last year. We were surprised at the number of people who recognized us and stopped by to say hello. The weather cooperated and we had outstanding numbers of give-a-ways each day. One of the days, I was getting things ready on stage and I saw a familiar face from home in the crowd. Laura from my local Rotary club was visiting friends in town and saw me on stage. I spoke to my local Rotary club about The Great American BBQ Tour this spring so the demonstration familiar to her.

Until the Naperville Ribfest…

Mike (& Chris) Peters
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