Events and Festivals
- Where to Go
- The Best of Milwaukee and Madison
- The Best Wisconsin Weekends
- A Perfect Week in Door County
- Wisconsin for Recreationists
- Rustic Road Tripping
- Made in Milwaukee
- Madison Weekend
- Sports: The Packers and Beyond
- Out on the Town in Milwaukee
- Say Cheese!
- Four Days in the Mad City
- A Wisconsin Family Road Trip
- Wisconsin’s Best Brews
In mid- to late January, in Eagle River’s wild World Championship Snowmobiling Derby, the world’s best snowmobile drivers compete on a half-mile, iced oval track, followed by February’s awesome Klondike Days with a frontier winter rendezvous, lumberjack demonstrations, chainsaw carving, sled dog rides, and more.
In late February, the largest cross-country ski race in North America, the Birkebeiner, is held in Hayward and Cable. Six thousand competitors from around the world race on the grueling 55 kilometer course. The four-day event features tons of smaller races.
Late, late April to mid-May heralds the beginning of the festival season, which runs through autumn. An amazing way to start it is with Door County’s monthlong Festival of Blossoms, a riot of color rivaled perhaps only by Holland’s tulips!
One apt nickname for Milwaukee is the “City of Festivals.” Milwaukee’s Polish Fest is one of the larger ethnic festivals in the country, but the city really gets into high gear the last week of June when it hosts the mammoth Summerfest, billed as the largest music festival in the United States. In the 11-day extravaganza, more than 2,500 national acts perform everything from big band to heavy metal.
Wausau hosts the National Kayak Racing Competition to coincide with its Logjam Festival late in June.
July brings cars and parades. The largest automotive festival in the Midwest, the Iola Old Car Show and Swap Meet, takes place in the southeastern town of Iola. Milwaukee’s major ethnic festival of July is German Fest.
Wisconsin’s Lac Courte Oreilles Indians honor the Earth in late July with a powwow and homecoming celebration of ceremonial dancing, drumming, food, games, workshops, and speakers.
The most prestigious event outside of Summerfest is likely Oshkosh’s EAA International Fly-In Convention in July, the world’s most significant aviation event. Fifteen thousand experimental and historic aircraft — including NASA-designed craft — descend on the city and surrounding area for a week.
In August, Milwaukee hosts the Wisconsin State Fair, the state’s largest annual event, with more than a million visitors over 11 days. In late August, Milwaukee features Irish Fest, the world’s largest Irish cultural event outside of the Emerald Isle.
New Glarus shows itself as North America’s most Swiss village during its Wilhelm Tell Pageant in early September. The famous Tell drama is presented in both English and Swiss German. And, of course, there’s plenty of yodeling, log throwing, and the like.
Next, the nation's largest Native American festival is Milwaukee’s Indian Summer. Mid-September also brings the nation’s premier off-road bike race, the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival in Hayward and Cable — three days of off-road racing, orienteering, 16- and 40-mile events, and criterium lap racing.
Believe it or not, up to 80,000 people crowd west-central Wisconsin, near Warrens, for late September’s Cranberry Festival, which celebrates the tart little fruit.
Nature’s autumn majesty is a big deal in Wisconsin, drawing thousands of tourists annually. Local news reports even feature nightly leaf color watches. The state Department of Tourism maintains 24/7 color updates via phone and website!
One of October’s major festivals is Oktoberfest in La Crosse, fashioned after Munich’s celebrations. There is a Maple Leaf Parade, music, rides, and a lot of beer.
Being America’s Dairyland, it seems appropriate for Wisconsin to hold the world’s largest dairying trade show, the World Dairy Expo. More than 50 countries participate in the event, held yearly in Madison.
Bayfield closes out the season of warm-weather festivals with its early October Apple Fest, featuring food booths, parades, arts and crafts, carnivals, and music. It’s worth going just to see the Apostle Islands.
In mid-November, more than 50 ethnic groups participate in the Milwaukee Holiday Folk Fair. The largest annual multiethnic festival in the country, it’s a great place to shop for folk art, and the ethnic dancing is quite popular.
© Thomas Huhti from Moon Wisconsin, 5th Edition