Erin Petersen
Made in Milwaukee

A labor of love

By - Aug 30th, 2011 03:14 pm
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Made in Milwaukee

Made in Milwaukee 2011 takes place Sept. 3. All photos courtesy of MiM.

This Saturday, Milwaukeeans will gather in Cathedral Square to celebrate all of the things that make our city a great place to live. I’m talking about Made in Milwaukee, an annual ,day-long festival devoted to all things local.

Since its humble beginnings at the former Onopa Brewing Co. (now Stonefly) nearly 9 years ago, MiM has grown significantly, spreading the love with bigger line-ups and larger venues each year. Last year’s move to Cathedral Square saw the largest turnout yet, as people from all corners of the city (and some from beyond our borders) packed the park.

And yet, in spite of its growth in popularity and in size, the folks behind MiM aren’t letting it go to their heads – and there are no plans to deviate from the festival’s simple, yet poignant, mission: making the best of Milwaukee culture available to everyone.

“[In Milwaukee], we all get comfortable in our own little ‘pockets,’” says MiM founder Chuck Watson. “The goal [of MiM] is to expand that pocket and bring people together…there’s no distance between us then.”

As Chuck and any of the dedicated folks behind the festival will tell you, Made in Milwaukee is a festival for the people. It’s not about making a ton of money or creating yet another excuse to drink in the park, it’s about exposing people to a slice of Milwaukee’s creative culture. It’s about meeting new people and creating a positive shared experience.

It’s about love.

Here, success isn’t measured in dollars and cents. While bands and performing artists are paid for their time, none of the festival organizers receive a wage for the work they do in planning and executing the event. Booth fees are collected to cover the costs of electricity and street closures, but any money made (say, from drink sales) is put back into the festival.

Made in Milwaukee“It’s a labor of love,” says Watson. “[MiM] is about serving the community… it’s not about paying anyone, it’s about loving Milwaukee.”

At the same time, organizing a festival of this scale is in no way an easy task. There are a lot of “what ifs” when it comes to an outdoor event — rain, low turnout, etc.

Still, all those uncertainties are no deterrent.

“There’s a huge amount of faith that if we work this hard, people will come out and support us,” says Watson. “The sacrifice is all of ours if we want to live in a better city.”

And if years past are any indicator, that faith has certainly paid off, evidenced by its continual growth. At its inception, Watson says there was no master plan for Made in MIlwaukee — it was just a way to bring artists and musicians together, and to make that experience available to people in Milwaukee.

So what can you experience at this latest incarnation of MiM? Start the day with a coffee tasting (all brewed with beans from local roasters) while you peruse the fresh fare at the East Town Farmers Market. Bring the kids, who can create make-and-take projects with the Milwaukee Art Museum, Discovery World and Murray Hill Pottery, or get their hands dirty with Sweet Water Organics.

In the afternoon, 8 Milwaukee bands take the main stage, along with modern dance performances and a fashion show featuring local designers. When you’re ready to whet your whistle, check out the Milwauktoberfest beer tasting and sample craft brews from 20 Wisconsin breweries.

And that’s just to name a few – throughout the day artists, crafters and local businesses will set up on the grounds, offering original works, priced to sell. And once again, Milwaukee Film will release the 2011 Milwaukee Film Festival line-up at MiM.

It’s just a sampling of the best Milwaukee has to offer, and it’s yours for the taking this Saturday.

“It’s difficult to offer proof [of success] with MiM. It’s a one-day festival, and there’s no graph or spreadsheet to gauge smiles or happiness,” says Watson. “ But when you do something positive, that resonates with people.”

Check out the full line-up of performers and activities here. Be sure to stop by TCD’s booth at MiM this Saturday, where you can strike a “statuesque” pose for an upcoming photo gallery!

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