Jeramey Jannene

Fundraising Campaign Aims To Light Lake Side of Hoan Bridge

Launch party includes ticketed cruise aboard the Miss Wisconsin, fireworks and music.

By - Jul 25th, 2023 03:36 pm
Hoan Bridge lights. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Hoan Bridge lights. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Programmable lights were installed on the Hoan Bridge in 2020 with great fanfare, but the project was actually only partially complete.

The west or city-facing side of the bridge is now illuminated nightly, honoring major events and giving Milwaukee-area students the chance to try programming light shows. But the east (lake) side remains dark.

A new fundraising campaign from Light the Hoan, the nonprofit group responsible for the lights, aims to change that. An Aug. 17 event, dubbed Hoanchella, will kick off the new campaign.

“Imagine approaching Milwaukee from Lake Michigan and seeing the east side of the Hoan lit up and reflecting off the surface of the water. That is a powerful first impression for the city and we believe it will be a point of pride for Milwaukeeans now and for future generations,” said organization executive director Erika Smith in a press release announcing the event.

The August event includes a ticketed cruise aboard the Miss Wisconsin, with fireworks and music by DJ Shawna synced to a two-hour light show. A BYOB (bring your own boat) option is also available and includes a dock slip at Lakeshore State Park, beverages, snacks and Light the Hoan merchandise. Both options include an overhead drone photo by Nate Vomhof.

“Hoanchella will be the most unique event of the summer, and reflect the fresh, innovative thinking that drove us to light up the bridge in the first place,” said Ian Abston, one of the co-founders of Light the Hoan. “We’re excited to celebrate Milwaukee’s bright and vibrant future with the community and invite everyone to join us in sharing our love for our city.”

Tickets for the boat party are $175, with the BYOB option available for $1,500. Proceeds will support lighting the east side. The event draws its name not from the summer festival that takes place under the bridge, but a California music festival, Coachella.

“The goal of this extraordinary event is to create a multi-sensory extravaganza that pushes the boundaries of entertainment, offering an unforgettable experience for attendees,” said DJ Shawna. “By leveraging the city’s architectural wonders and natural beauty, this unique spectacle creates a sense of civic pride and positions Milwaukee as a beacon of innovation and creativity.”

Tickets for the event are available at

In 2020, after announcing $3.5 million was raised to build the first phase of the project. The organization is now seeking to raise $2 million to finish the lights and sustain its operation. While the initial push was to get the lights installed for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, the new campaign aims to have the second phase complete in time for the 2024 Republican National Convention.

Want to see what the lights look like up close? Don’t attempt to stop your car at the top of the bridge, instead see our article and photo gallery from 2020.

The bridge isn’t just a photo-friendly art exhibit. A Light the Hoan Intern Challenge for college students and Code the Hoan partnership for K-12 students offer opportunities for students to learn how to program light shows on the Signify LED lights.

Built between 1970 and 1972, the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge is nearly two miles in length. It opened to the public in 1977, after being derided as the “Bridge to Nowhere” for five years. It is named after former Milwaukee Mayor Daniel Hoan.

Can’t make the Aug. 17 event? You can dedicate a bulb through the organization’s website or pay for a custom light show.

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2 thoughts on “Fundraising Campaign Aims To Light Lake Side of Hoan Bridge”

  1. Jevans says:

    Light Pollution Effects on Wildlife and Ecosystems

  2. Marty Ellenbecker says:

    The time, talent, work, energy, money, and resources
    that could be fighting Climapocalypse,
    will instead invite and embrace it.
    Humans! Has anyone determined
    when our evolution peaked?

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