Summerfest CEO talks festival's future

Posted at 6:52 PM, Jun 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-23 19:52:07-04

Summerfest has been around for almost 50 years. So what's the secret to the festival's staying power? Summerfest CEO Don Smiley recently shared his thoughts with TODAY'S TMJ4.

Smiley has been with the festival for 14 years and has seen how big of an event it really is.

"We know that we draw from all 50 states and 40 some countries," he said. "It really has turned into the world's largest music festival."

Summerfest began calling the lakefront home back in 1968. Through the years there have been many improvements to the festival grounds and over the next few years there will be several more.

"We just opened the Miller Lite Oasis and mid-gate entrance,” he said. “We will rebuild the US Cellular stage after this festival, we'll rebuild the north gate and after the 2019 festival season, we will demolish and rebuild the American Family Insurance Amphitheater."

Smiley said the footprint will remain the same, but everything else will be rebuilt.

"We'll try to save the roof, and the seats are going to go in the same place. There will be new seating tread with new seats," Smiley said.

He said the goal is to keep fans happy and the bands, "You really have to keep up in that game. They have a choice of where they want to go in the world."

Smiley feels fortunate he's been able to work at Summerfest for 14 years and will keep it up as long as he's challenged.

He said the fans are to thank for Summerfest's longevity, "They should have fun and take a bow themselves because without the fans and our sponsors we wouldn't have lasted 50 years."

Smiley said he's excited to see P!nk perform because he wants to see how crews will rig the amphitheater for her aerial stunts.