Surviving Summerfest: 3 ways to avoid big hassles at the Big Gig
Even if you opt to skip the “Big Gig,” it’s difficult to dodge the effects of Summerfest during the festival’s imposing 11-day run. And if you dare to venture through the Henry Maier Festival Park turnstiles at any point from June 26 through July 7, it’s nearly impossible to escape the flurry of annoyances and general inconveniences that accompany an event that proudly (and accurately) calls itself “The World’s Largest Music Festival.” While the lack of seating, abundance of lines, and an army of middle-aged people un-ironically wearing Looney Tunes shirts dancing on metal bleachers is inevitable at an event with an estimated 900,000-person turnout, The A.V. Club has learned a few ways—some obvious, others unconventional—to make Summerfest a tad easier to navigate.
Take a shuttle from your neighborhood
If you—correctly—thought parking in the Third Ward was terrible during the 354 non-Summerfest days, the concept of abandoning one’s means of conveyance in the region for under $10 is merely a dream during the thick of Summerfest. (Nightmares count as dreams, right?) Fortunately, dozens of businesses from all corners of town are looking to affix their name to the event and are eager to provide transport. Take advantage of your neighborhood watering hole’s party bus. There, it’s perfectly acceptable to drink and holler, like a skiff on international waters… that eventually brings you to see Bad Religion. And don’t be a dick. Tip your drivers.
An unsavory byproduct of a festival with 11 stages is the mass exodus at night’s end. On certain nights, as many as six bands will be playing the 10 p.m. slot, causing a bottleneck at shuttle row when each show ends at 11:30 p.m. If you’re not at Summerfest specifically to see a free stage headliner, we advise removing yourself from any Mad Max-type situations that could occur while waiting for the Stenny’s shuttle. Leave at 10, if not earlier. Drowning Pool isn’t worth it.
Camp at the Cascio
With a great cast of locals like The Championship, The Delta Routine, Body Futures, Calliope, Elusive Parallelograms, and Faux Fir playing, the K-Nation/Cascio Interstate Music Stage already warrants frequent visits on its own merit. However, the “local” stage is also an asset by way of its general seclusion and proximity to offset amenities. If you’re seeking a place to kick your feet up between shows on larger (more crowded) stages, or if you want to play air hockey and grab a beer immediately after a satisfying and line-free piss, venture toward the Cascio stage and give a local band a shot. You’ll probably like what you hear.