Summer Essay: Selling Lemonade at Miller Park

Summer Essay: Selling Lemonade at Miller Park

Claire Hanan shares a Milwaukee story about selling lemonade at Miller Park as a 15-year-old.

One of the first outings for my family when we moved to Milwaukee in the summer of 1999 was a Brewers game at the soon-to-be demolished County Stadium. From my seat in the nosebleeds, baseball amounted to not much more than men standing around in T-shirts and deeply unflattering white pants.

A few years later, when I was 15 and Miller Park was three years old, I took a job selling lemonade in the ballpark’s concourse. Essentially bartenders going through puberty, my teenage coworkers and I weren’t required to do much more than juice lemons and mix the juice with ice, water and sugar. The opportunists among us established an illicit system of trading lemonade for hot dogs and Dippin’ Dots.

Most of the stainless steel stands sat along the outer walls of the concourses, so we never saw much baseball. That didn’t matter. The scent of brats, beer and spiced nuts was a perfume I gladly wore a couple of times each week.

Miller Park offers an Ivy League education in Wisconsin ethnography. I recognized lifers in the nylon satin jackets, and saw frustrated chaperones herding wandering children through the crowds. I took in the ways a jersey could be worn with high heels.

For the first time in my life, I saw adults consume too much alcohol. Even in the early innings, slurring 20-somethings would perform the slow shuffle of the inebriated. Chicago Cubs games meant fans drank more than usual and at least one fist-fight would break out in the stands. And one of my clearest memories was feeling my temperature rise with embarrassment when a middle-aged man yelled across the concourse that he liked my teen-aged “lemons.” But it wasn’t always bad.

Near the end of the season, the Brewers played some uninspiring team on a Sunday afternoon. The crowds were thin, and the work was easy but boring. The sun was low enough that beams of light illuminated only the stands and the concourse, while the rest of the field was in shade. It was lighting made for Instagram, long before “selfie” entered the lexicon.

The game had been uneventful until late in one of the last innings, when, in what seemed like a surprise to everyone, someone hit a homerun. Or was it a grand slam? The distinction escaped me.

Fans and workers alike began running through the concourse, cheering and screaming. Strangers high-fived. Even I ran from my lemonade stand to join them in jumping around. Just by the swing of a bat, Brewers fans of all shapes and BAC levels were united. It was the kind of moment that made the ballpark seem just a little magical, an environment where anything could happen if you hung around long enough.

“Summer Lemons” is party of the essay collection, “True Stories,” which appears in the 2016 City Guide issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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Claire Hanan worked at the magazine as an editor from 2012-2017. She edited the Culture section and wrote stories about all sorts of topics, including the arts, fashion, politics and more. In 2016, she was a finalist for best profile writing at the City and Regional Magazine Awards for her story "In A Flash." In 2014, she won the the Milwaukee Press gold award for best public service story for editing "Handle With Care," a service package about aging in Milwaukee. Before all this, she attended the University of Missouri's School of Journalism and New York University's Summer Publishing Institute.