Matt Wild

A Survival Guide to Burnhearts’ Mitten Fest 2014

Music and crafts in the dead of winter? Yes, brrr, and here’s how to survive and thrive at the outdoor fest.

By - Feb 6th, 2014 11:39 am
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Bay View’s beloved Burnhearts Bar took a big chance last year with its inaugural Mitten Fest, an outdoor music and craft blowout held in the dead of winter. Plenty of terrifying questions loomed: Would anyone show up? Would the bands be able to stay warm on stage? Would the highly touted “Brandy Land” be a drunken delight or a slushy bust? Happily, Burnhearts’ wintertime gamble paid off. The event was a resounding success, drawing hundreds of brave Milwaukeeans willing to risk their precious appendages in order to drink outdoors and watch Call Me Lightning kick all kinds of frigid ass.

This Saturday, Mitten Fest returns to the street outside of Burnhearts with more music, more crafts, more food, and more brandy old-fashioneds. (So many brandy old-fashioneds…) Temperatures are expected to hover around the 20 mark, which, let’s be honest, is pretty balmy for this winter, but chilly nonetheless. With that in mind, we present four tips for staying warm, staying safe, and surviving this year’s glorious middle finger to the winter doldrums.

Layers, layers, layers
“Dress in layers” is a vintage bundle-up-for-school cliché for a good reason: it works. So go ahead and tuck in those flannels and pull those wool socks over your jeans. Make friends with long underwear. Feel free to rock one of those mock turtleneck dickey things. But whatever you do, don’t be fooled by the bands playing onstage (The Fatty Acids, Whips, Midwest Death Rattle, Heavy Hand)—the stage is nicely heated, giving the performers a comfy shelter from the cold and the rest of us a reason to loathe said cozy performers.

Hand warmers, hand warmers, hand warmers
Once the province of blaze-orange-clad deer hunters and those who enjoy placing potentially lethal chemicals on their bare skin, hand-warming packets have become a necessity for every rank-and-file Milwaukeean slugging through this impossibly cold winter. But hey, they’re dirt cheap, and they do feel good tucked inside your gloves or mittens. Oh, and they’ll give you plenty of needed dexterity for browsing the Cortney Heimerl-curated craft fair. Need more insta-heat? Shove some in your boots, your hat, or, in homage to Crispin Glover in Wild At Heart, your pants.

Embrace the fire
Staying warm at Mitten Fest isn’t entirely up to you. Last year Burnhearts dotted the street with flaming heating towers, perfect for warming your hands or just zoning out to the comforting flicker of the flame. Sticking close to these beacons of heat while downing another brandy or scarfing down food from Honeypie or Goodkind is essential to surviving Mitten Fest 2014. Plus, it will give you a rough approximation of what a small-town broomball tournament was like in the mid-1980s. (Kids, ask your parents. Transplants, ask a native.)

Embrace a stranger
Body Heat isn’t just a steamy 1981 thriller starring a young William Hurt and Kathleen Turner—it’s nature’s way of bringing together strangers who may or may not be attending an outdoor Milwaukee block party in February. Cozying up to your fellow show-goers may be frowned upon during the sweatier months—no one wants to bump into a sunburnt dude wearing a tank top at Summerfest—but it’s a simple survival tactic at Mitten Fest. Or at least that’s what we’ve heard. So go ahead and hug whomever you find yourself standing next to at any given time. If they don’t press charges, you’ll be good to go.

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