Suburbs’ Day in Milwaukee
Who are all those people that camp out 36 hours in advance for the July 3rd fireworks show? We decided to find out, and took some photos along the way.
Fireworks lit up the sky over Milwaukee’s lakefront on July 3rd shortly after the sun set, but for many the party started much earlier. Tents and fenced-off areas started dotting Juneau and Veterans parks as early as the morning of July 2nd. My friends and I have jokingly dubbed this phenomenon “Suburbs’ Day.” We posted the idea on Facebook this year and it sparked a lively discussion.
In the city of festivals that boasts lakefront fireworks seemingly every weekend, it seems inconceivable that people would wait over 36 hours to watch a one-hour fireworks show. Streets on the edge of Downtown that are quiet the other 364 days of the year become gridlocked as people flock to the city to watch the fireworks. Further compounding the oddity: all the circling of city streets the visitors do to find free parking and the fact that many people, after all that work, leave before the fireworks end in order to beat the traffic home.
Who are these people? We sent our fearless intern Amanda Mickevicius to find out. She surveyed ten groups camped out well in advance of the show and found they came from Waukesha, Brookfield, Hales Corners, Wales and the west side of Milwaukee. Only one group came from a zip code that bordered downtown (53212 – Riverwest). Most of the groups noted that they come to a number of festivals and that the fireworks is an event they do with a large group (one expected up to 50 people to join them).
Perhaps most interesting, people have been doing this for a very long time. Two groups interviewed had been doing it over 30 years, and a number more had been doing it more than ten years. An encouraging sign for the region, the audience was incredibly diverse, with people of all races and ages.
Wherever they come from, I’m happy they did. It cements the notion that Downtown is everybody’s neighborhood. Here’s hoping they come back more than once a year.