Jeramey Jannene
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Suburbs’ Day in Milwaukee

Who are all those suburbanites that camp out in the city for the July 3rd fireworks?

By - Jul 6th, 2015 06:24 pm
Suburbs' Day Campers. Photo by Amanda Mickevicius.

Suburbs’ Day Campers. Photo by Amanda Mickevicius.

Fireworks will light up the sky over Milwaukee’s lakefront shortly after sunset today, but for many the party starts much earlier. Tents and fenced-off areas start dotting Juneau and Veterans parks at least a day before the event. My friends and I have jokingly dubbed this phenomenon “Suburbs’ Day.”

In the City of Festivals that boasts lakefront fireworks seemingly every weekend, it seems inconceivable that people would wait as long as 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 for the event. 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? Back in 2015, we sent our fearless correspondent Amanda Mickevicius to find out. She surveyed 10 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 people noted 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 of others for more than 10 years. An encouraging sign for the region, the audience was incredibly diverse, with people of all races and ages.

Our photos from that year are pretty timeless and capture the spirt of the event. The participation by so many people from the metro area — and beyond — cements the notion that Downtown is everybody’s neighborhood. Here’s hoping they come back every year.

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20 thoughts on “Photo Gallery: Suburbs’ Day in Milwaukee”

  1. Rose says:

    Great to see the diversity!

  2. AG says:

    It’s true this is one of the few events that many suburbanites attend downtown… but I was really disappointed by the conversation it sparked on the facebook. All it did was fan the city vs suburb mentality that is far too common. Everyone: suburban, innercity, eastsider, etc should be welcomed downtown with open arms in hopes that they’ll enjoy themselves and come down more often. The alienation and contempt shown by some was anything but welcoming.

  3. David says:

    I see suburbanites downtown on a regular basis. Third Ward, Jazz in the Park, Bastille Days, etc. This alienation and division is what drives talk radio. Their motto is us against them. Who cares about a silly facebook page. Talk radio drives and thrives off dividing our region and they do it every day, all day.

  4. Kenno says:

    It’s the playground of the rich. It’s time to tax them for our resource and service. Someone’s gotta pay!

  5. AG says:

    So David, because talk radio drives ratings based on alienation and division that means everyone else in the metro area should follow suit? Makes sense to me… sounds like a great policy for making our region as strong as can be! You just keep doing your part, sir.

  6. AG says:

    Kenno, which resources and services are you referring to that we should charge the suburbanites for?

  7. PMD says:

    Hey AG at least he didn’t call anyone fascist (yet). That’s progress.

  8. AG says:

    This is why I appreciate you, PMD. Always bringing up points I miss! You are very right on this one… I concede.

  9. Kenno says:

    We néed more revenue for all of our parks recreation arts and cultural establishments. These tourists need to pay up.

  10. Urban Dweller says:

    I don;’t understand why AG is attacking David for pointing out that talk radio cretins generate and feed off of division. It’s true, but David is clearly not cheering that fact. I suggest you re-read his comment, AG.

    If local media would stop inciting irrational fear and bigotry, maybe more of the “tourists” Kenno expresses such hostility towards would come downtown more often to patronize our shopping districts, restaurants, nightclubs, and entertainment venues, supporting jobs, parks and cultural institutions. With the constant barrage of racist innuendo from talk radio, and the careless TV reporting of violence as if it is endemic and random across the city, it’s a surprise any suburbanites come into Milwaukee at all. People who live here understand that while these tragedies are everyone’s problem, they are not a threat to everyone’s safety.

  11. Kenno says:

    Let’s take advantage of this new vantage point. Hostility…nah. Our city is underfunded. We need revenue. Capitalize on this resource. (They understand that lingo ). Charge an incoming toll. We need street and transportation improvement. These tourists need to pay up.

  12. AG says:

    You put too much stock in the influence of talk radio over every single person in the suburbs. And it hardly makes sense to despise, or desire to unduly tax, people from outside of the downtown or east side area simply because they don’t live there.

    Last I checked, my tax dollars on the west side of Milwaukee are just as valuable as someone in Riverwest… and someone who lives in Hales Corners’ pays for parks and county programs the same as any from Milwaukee. Of course, lets not forget, many a cultural institution exists largely from the donations and patronage of people from all across the metro.

    Everyone needs to stop pretending like the city doesn’t need the suburbs just as the suburbanites need to realize they wouldn’t have the amenities they do without the city. The division is ridiculous… and NOT one sided.

  13. Kenno says:

    And another thing…let’s protect our pedestrians that are endangered by motorists that speed another the city. We need area wide 25 mph speed limits for our growing number of workers that walk and bike. City life needs preservation.

  14. Tim says:

    I didn’t know the property tax was a flat tax, thanks for your fiscal tip of the day AG!

    Unrelated to that, what’s with the “both sides do it” or “everyone is to blame” type responses from so many commentors? At best they’re platitudes & at worse excuse terrible behavior. You are exposing no one to knowledge with those comments, just muddying the waters when specific people are called out for their (usually bad) behavior. Personally, I use it to identify partisans that want to seem like they’re level headed… as they only invoke those terms when they’re losing an argument.

  15. PMD says:

    What argument is he losing? That it would be better to encourage everyone to come downtown as opposed to vilifying those in the suburbs and painting them all with one brush?

  16. Tim says:

    That’s a good question PMD, what is AG arguing for… I’ll let him tell it himself. I’m just making an observation, take it or leave it.

  17. AG says:

    Oh wow, Tim your comment was so far off the mark I didn’t even realize it was directed at me. PMD seemed to understand what I was saying and summed it up perfectly.

    I’m confused about the flat tax comment though? Kenno suggested that people from outside of downtown and the east side somehow don’t pay for Milwaukee’s roads, the county’s parks, etc. To which I replied that my tax dollars are most likely worth just as much as any other Milwaukee city or county resident. That may be obvious to you, but Kenno seemed not to believe that.

  18. PMD says:

    In that case I’ll leave it Tim.

  19. Tim says:

    I’m not stepping into the morass between you & Kenno arguing about carpetbaggers and parks funding; I just don’t like the property tax system used to fund the majority of local government in the Milwaukee area. Tax dollars aren’t created equal is one thing I wanted to point to, you don’t pay the same as someone else living in another area of the county.

    Maybe I should be more clear, taxing property in some form is a great idea but taxing the property value fails when you have a relatively low tax base with expensive (read police/fire/education) service needs. It’s a recipe for underfunding of needed services & overtaxing anyone of greater than modest means.

  20. Jimbo says:

    Weary of the division of people. Suburbanites and city dwellers. Illinois and Wisconsin. Men and women. Chicago and Milwaukee. Blacks and whites. Ford and Chevy owners. Packers and Vikings fans. How about we all just celebrate the nation’s independence regardless of our affiliations? Even if just for one day.

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