MILWAUKEE — It's one of the biggest music festivals to take place in Milwaukee. Summerfest draws hundreds of thousands of people to the city every year. But with new cases of COVID-19 on the rise, festival officials made the decision to require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from concertgoers in order to attend.
"I think it's a smart thing to do. I think it's a responsible thing to do. I applaud them for it," said Milwaukee resident Michael Sapiro.
"Don't make people prove that they have the vaccine for it. I don't think that's fair," said another resident, Chelsea Sanchez.
President and CEO of Summerfest, Don Smiley, says on top of wanting to keep people safe, he made the decision to approve these new protocols in order to keep up with the performers' demands.
"The decision was rooted in three different factors. Health safety and business. If we didn't implement something like we did, we run the risk of losing a headliner. After we had the year that we had in 2020 where we lost 99% of our revenue, we just couldn't afford the potential of losing a headliner," said Smiley.
So here's how it'll work: Before entering the festival grounds, you'll be asked to show a valid COVID-19 vaccination card or a negative test.
Documentation may also be presented in a digital form, such as a screenshot or photo, on a phone. For any vaccine documentation in reprinted form (printed copy, phone screenshot, etc.), the entire front of the vaccination card must be visible or it will not be accepted, the festival said.
A negative COVID-19 test result must be obtained within 72 hours (3 days) of attending the festival.
"We worked collaboratively with the Milwaukee Health Department and Commissioner Johnson and came up with this plan," said Smiley.
But this isn't the first major music festival to have these new protocols. The Bonaroo music festival in Tennessee has the same requirements, as well as Lollapalooza and The Pitchfork music festival in Chicago.
"As you look throughout the music industry, whether it's concerts, whether its festivals, you'll see a lot of this. Milwaukee does not stand alone," said Smiley.
And while some agree with the latest protocols:
"It's not going to hurt anything to show the card," said Milwaukee resident Kimberly Kuehneman.
"It's a good thing, but I don't think they might have as many people there," said Trinity Shelton.
Others aren't on board with the decision.
"I probably won't go to Summerfest this year because of it. I'm not going to waste my money on that," said Sanchez.
Officials add that they will have rapid testing on-site for those who'd like to enter the festival grounds, but they encourage people to get tested beforehand to avoid any entry delays.