Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. is an independent, private 501(c)(3) corporation founded at the direction of the late Mayor Henry Maier in 1965 to organize and produce a multi-day event to offer low-cost entertainment to area residents. Community leaders hoped the event would revitalize Milwaukee’s downtown and bring the community together. After three years of research and planning, the first Summerfest debuted in 1968 at 35 separate locations throughout the city, and was subsequently moved to its present location on Milwaukee’s lakefront in 1970. Since then, Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance has evolved to become recognized as “The World’s Largest Music Festival” and generates approximately $181.3 million in direct and indirect economic impact for the community each year.
In addition to producing Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance, Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. maintains and develops the 75-acre lakefront parcel known as Henry Maier Festival Park, leasing the parcel from the City of Milwaukee through the year 2030, and hosting a variety of ethnic and cultural festivals, walks, runs, concerts and other events
along with approximately 1.4 million patrons each year at the site.
The mission of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. is to promote an understanding of different ethnic cultures, the histories and traditions of various nationalities, harmony in the community, civic pride and provide a showcase for performing arts, activities and recreation for the public and employment opportunities for the youth of the community.
In June 2011, Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. formed the Summerfest Foundation, Inc., a 501 (c)(3) charitable corporation to support its initiatives, which include charitable and educational purposes, and providing a showcase for the performing arts.
Each year, the Summerfest Foundation, Inc. produces various events and programs designed to raise awareness and funding, as well as other benefits for its mission and other charitable partners. Such events have included, the Summerfest Rock ‘n Sole Run and Big Gig Dress Rehearsal, in which both such events select charitable partners to share in the proceeds from each event. Other programs have included music education initiatives, such as Summerfest’s Big Band Camp, which provides a FREE day long hands-on educational experience and music clinics, as well as a newly developed Music Education Grants program, which helps provide funds for music educators for music programs.