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Summerfest chief Don Smiley to step down at the end of 2023

Posted at 9:46 AM, Jun 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-03 18:36:16-04

MILWAUKEE — Big changes are coming to the Milwaukee World Festival at the end of 2023 when President and CEO Don Smiley steps down from his role.

A spokesperson with Milwaukee World Festival confirmed Friday that Smiley would be ending his tenure with the company. Milwaukee World Festival is the organizer of Summerfest, known as the world's largest music festival.

Smiley has been leading Summerfest since 2004 and now, nearly 20 years later, the Big Gig has a new president.

The Milwaukee World Festival board selected Smiley's successor, choosing a longtime festival executive, Sarah Pancheri.

Pancheri has already taken the title of president, while Smiley will hang onto the role of CEO until the end of 2023.

“Don will continue to provide overall leadership for Henry Maier Festival Park, Summerfest, and Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. in fulfillment of our non-profit mission,” said Howard Sosoff, Chairman of MWF.

Prior to being promoted to president, Pancheri was the COO and vice president of marketing.

“Sarah is one of the most talented executives I have ever hired and promoted. She has played a crucial role in our success, building an all-star team that continues to create value for our sponsors, partners, and fans. She has forged relationships locally and nationally with a variety of stakeholders who recognize the value of Henry Maier Festival Park and associating with Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance, the World’s Largest Music Festival,” said Smiley.

From now until Smiley's departure, Pancheri will work closely with Smiley to learn the role and manage Henry Maier Festival Park.

“I am confident that Don, Sarah, and our outstanding team are well-positioned for the future of MWF. The promotion of Sarah is richly deserved,” Sosoff said.

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