Jeramey Jannene

Want To Visit Summerfest’s Children’s Park? Check The Schedule

Northwestern Mutual Community Park is free and popular, but availability is based on fest calendar.

By - Apr 21st, 2022 11:56 am
Northwestern Mutual Community Park. Photo by Hope Moses.

Northwestern Mutual Community Park. Photo by Hope Moses.

The large children’s park within Henry Maier Festival Park is quite the play space.

“Our team aimed to completely reimagine the former area and develop a new space that welcomes all families to our beautiful lakefront in Milwaukee,” said Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. President and CEO Don Smiley at the June 2021 ribbon cutting. And by all accounts, the Summerfest host was quite successful in doing so.

The 54,000-square-foot Northwestern Mutual Community Park includes a variety of musically-themed, inclusive play equipment targeted at different age levels, a special toddler play area, covered seating and an air-conditioned structure with restrooms, nursing mother rooms and sensory rooms. The publicly-accessible park is located near the Mid Gate entry point to the festival grounds and can be accessed by entering through the gate or the lakefront pathway. Free parking, on non-festival days, is available in a surface parking lot at the southwest corner of the intersection of E. Chicago St. and N. Lincoln Memorial Dr.

It opens for the season on April 23 and is available daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. But you’ll want to check the schedule for blackout dates.

The park is unavailable during setup or teardown for a festival, and only available to ticketed guests when a festival is operating. “There is a seven-day access window for the ethnic festivals,” said MWF vice president of planning and development Jason Stuewe to the Board of Harbor Commissioners on April 14. MWF leases the city-owned land and is required to provide an annual report on its activities.

“If you look at June, July and August, two-thirds of that is white,” said commissioner Craig Mastantuono referring to the closed dates. “That is obviously the months you are most squeezed with your events, but obviously the public also wants to use the lakefront.” A schedule shows only five free public days in June, though the park will be accessible for attendees of PrideFest, Polish Fest and Summerfest. The other months have at least twice the number of free days, including every day in May, October and November.

Commissioner Claude Krawczyk noted that the public can always walk, run or bike the entire way around the grounds using the pathway through Lakeshore State Park.

“It has been a success and people want to know when they have access,” said Stuewe of the park.

To that end, Milwaukee World Festival is adding a free programming series this year. “We will program the Northwestern Mutual Park with food trucks and entertainment,” said MWF chief operating officer Sarah Smith Pancheri.

Sunday Family Fun Days

The Sunday Funday series will take place June 19, July 17, August 7, Sept. 18 and Oct. 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Along with free access to the park, the park stage will be programmed with entertainment including performances by Danceworks, First Stage and the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra. Balloon artists, face painters and other exhibitors will offer additional entertainment and food trucks will provide a variety of dining options.

A book donation box is also available at the park this year. Those donated will be given to the Next Door Foundation’s Books for Kids program.

More information on the event and the park is available on the MWF website.

Park and Pathway Access Schedule

2022 public access calendar for Northwestern Mutual Community Park. Image from Milwaukee World Festival.

2022 public access calendar for Northwestern Mutual Community Park. Image from Milwaukee World Festival.

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