'We need to make sure we're safe': Milwaukee ethnic festivals on hold due to COVID-19

Posted at 6:26 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 19:26:25-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee's Summerfest grounds may be quieter and more empty during its high season as a growing number of festivals cancel due to the COVID-19 threat.

Festa Italiana and Polish Fest are the latest to announce they will put their events on hold.

"There's a lot of uncertainty right now we don't know where that's going to be in July," said Joseph Emanuele, Italian Community Center President.

Joe says Festa brings tens of thousands of people together for three days each summer. This is the first time they canceled Festa in more than 40 years.

"We know it's the right thing to do. It's the responsible thing to do, but with all that, it's still a tough decision to make," said Joe.

"The event itself is very important to us, but again the safety and concerns for everybody is the most important," said Jeff Kuderski, Executive Director of the Polish Heritage Alliance, which hosts Polish Fest.

Jeff says Polish Fest is a chance to share their culture with others, but since Milwaukee World Festival already told them the grounds wouldn't be ready for their June weekend, his team is working on setting a new date.

Considering the uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation and when the "Safer at Home" order ends, rescheduling is proving to be a mountainous challenge for several events.

However, both Joe and Jeff are optimistic.

"We'll be back next year bigger and better than ever," said Joe.

"We're gonna stay strong. We're going to present what we can, but again we need to make sure we're safe," said Jeff.

Festa organizers will work toward hosting their event in summer 2021. Polish Fest is meeting later Tuesday to decide their next steps.

Milwaukee World Festival Inc. issued the following statement:

"In response to government mandates and the evolving situation with COVID-19, we are working closely with our partners on events scheduled at Henry Maier Festival Park during the 2020 festival season. This is an unprecedented, fluid situation which requires caution until there is a greater understanding of what dates are available for summer events."

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