Explore Some Lesser-Known Fests in Milwaukee This Summer

Stray from the mainstream with these esoteric offerings.

Garlic Fest

According to Dave Swanson, chef and owner of Braise, Milwaukee festivals often serve less-than-authentic food to attendees – even at large productions like Bastille Days, the annual French festival that takes over Downtown. “You’ll find anything but French food,” he says.

So several years ago, Swanson endeavored to start a small neighborhood festival with more deliberate food on Second Street in Walker’s Point, back before it was such a blazing hot spot in the city’s food scene. As a theme, he anointed garlic as the central ingredient, and everything bloomed from there: green garlic bloody marys, garlic cotton candy, Purple Door’s popular garlic ice cream. Garlic eaters waged battle over bowls of peeled cloves, and a vampire mingled with the crowd.

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This story is taken from our June 2019 feature:
99 Days of Summer: Here’s Your 2019 Guide to Maximal Milwaukee Summer Fun


The little festival spread from a side street to Second Street itself and is gathering steam going into its eighth incarnation on June 23. Some 15-20 restaurants from inside and outside of Walker’s Point will sell garlic-inflected portions at $3-$6, and various local artisans and alcohol-makers will be on hand, including Milwaukee Brewing. A small stage will elevate two garlic-friendly bands and the radio partner, 91.7, and game-oriented people may choose to play Garlic Golf (putt-putt with a garlic bulb) and Garlic Plinko. There’ll also be a petting zoo organized by the Racine Zoo, for the young or young-at-heart.

4 More Lesser-Known Fests

1) Crusherfest

When: June 8-9
Where: Downtown South Milwaukee

The people of South Milwaukee sure know how to have a good time. This two-day, polka-enhanced revelry will mark the birth of a bronze statue commemorating wrestler Reggie “Da Crusher” Lisowski.

2) Port Fish Day

When: July 20
Where: Port Washington
The “world’s largest one-day outdoor fish fry” is a massive celebration of fish, fun and music in an idyllic lakeside town. But please note this particular fish fry is on a Saturday.

3) Hip Hop Week

When: Aug. 19-25
Where: Various locations
2018’s inaugural Hip Hop Week was a striking success with performances, conversations and events all over town. Its theme this year will be “health, financial literacy and civic engagement.” Watch hiphopweekmke.com for more developments.

4) Petfest

When: Sept. 21
Where: Henry W. Maier Festival Park
Sponsored by local Fromm Family Pet Food, Petfest transforms the grounds into a theme park for dogs and cats, with lure courses, dock diving, a Kitty City and more.

“Say Hello to Summer!” appears in the June 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning June 3, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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Matt has written for Milwaukee Magazine since 2006, when he was a lowly intern. Since then, he’s held the posts of assistant news editor and, most recently, senior editor. He’s lived in South Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, and Indiana but mostly in Wisconsin. He wants to do more fishing but has a hard time finding worms. For the magazine, Matt has written about city government, schools, religion, coffee roasters and Congress.