Milwaukee’s War on Fun
It was just a few years ago when Milwaukee was named the #2 Party City in America, and although that might seem like a funny or insignificant title it was actually a well deserved and beneficial honor. I believe this title meant more than the number of beers sold at Summerfest or bar stools per capita. I believe it considered that because of Milwaukee’s great events “party goers” of all backgrounds can come together to enjoy music, art, the outdoors and a good drink. This ranking didn’t just show that we Milwaukeean’s like to knock back a few but more importantly it showed young professionals, baby boomers, and outsiders that Milwaukee was a vibrant, fun city to live in. This ranking reflected what those of us who live in already knew, summer in Milwaukee is about as good as it gets.
Then the Winter of 2008 arrived, and as President Obama indicated “change has come to America”. More specifically change has come to Milwaukee’s summer time events. Unfortunately not to the betterment of Milwaukee.
First, we heard that after 18 years of allowing carry-in liquor, Jazz in the Park is throwing out the tradition that made the event special. Next, we heard that Gallery Night is being harassed by the State of Wisconsin over a couple of free glasses of wine. And now we hear of neighbors whining about music on Bradford Beach.
The ability to carry-in your own choice of beverage allows groups of friends from all income levels and races to gather and celebrate together. It facilitates spontaneous gatherings, random meetings, and yes, community building. By changing this rule East Town has turned Jazz in the Park from a community event into a street festival, and although street festivals are still enjoyable something is lost.
The wine offered at galleries during Gallery Night serves a purpose other than inebriation. It takes the fairly individual act of browsing art and opens it up to groups of friends and strangers. Furthermore, it attracts first time art fans which opens a new world of interest to those who may not ever of chosen to explore art.
For years, some would say decades, Bradford Beach was in decline. Until last year. Last year the Hi-Hat Group and X-Ray Marketing took over operations of the Bradford Beach House and began to schedule a variety of events which included live music. Anyone who made it down the beach last year knew times had changed for the better. People were playing volleyball, sun tanning, swimming, and enjoying the music. A great Milwaukee amenity was re-born and enjoyed by thousands of Milwaukeeans throughout last summer. As with Jazz in the Park and Gallery Night, this great amenity, this great event, this part of Milwaukee’s rebirth is already coming under fire. Recently a small group of East Side residents complained to the County Board, apparently because they didn’t approve of the choice of music, and now the fun, the rebirth of Bradford Beach is in question.
This “war on fun” needs to be looked at in a larger view, beyond the individual events. Beyond the individual concerns and complaints. I hope that we as a city begin to realize that events big and small add to the vibrancy of our great city. I hope that soon enough we realize the value these events bring to our city, because if we choose rigid and muted, over vibrant and lively, we move a step closer to Generica, U.S.A.