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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Brady Street Festival: Party in the Street!

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Every year “The City of Festivals” brings us a multitude of ever-evolving venues and celebrations to draw us in and entertain us. On Saturday, July 24, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., another clear winner for Milwaukee is the Brady Street Festival, a free event that has really come into its own.

Thanks to the hard work of forward-thinking Milwaukeeans like Julilly Kohler, the city makes use of action-packed festivals to highlight its unique locales, like the lakefront and, in this case, the Brady Street neighborhood.

Shops and restaurants up and down Brady Street will offer specials on the day of the festival. “The retailers are going to be out en masse,” says Steph Salvia, from the Brady Street Business Improvement District. “It has become a great day for a sidewalk sale.”

Restaurants, too, will have several festival-day offerings to satiate the hungry throngs.

More than 60 outside vendors will be selling their wares alongside the street's regular merchants. According to event organizer Michael Short of the Hunter Group, “There is a much broader assortment of vendors than last year, comprised of everything from arts and crafts to local culinary food booths.” Some of the new food vendors include Bolzano Artisan Meats, Fajitas Grill, Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds and Immy's African Cuisine.

Wisconsin cheese-makers will once again be included as a mainstay of the festival. “Cheesefest” is the legacy of the Artisan Food Festival, predecessor to the current Brady Street Festival. Visitors to the cheese tent will have the opportunity to learn about and sample cheeses. Patrons can purchase their favorites right there, or skip the cooler and have them shipped home.

Kids and kids-at-heart will appreciate the incredible feats of the Division BMX stunt team, as bikers wow the crowd with their talents on the half-pipe until dusk. You can burn off the adrenaline from the BMX show by taking a turn on the Adventure Sports rock-climbing wall. Low-key kid-friendly activities include face painting and henna tattoos.

What festival in Milwaukee would be complete without beer? In addition to the usual options, the beer tent will offer six new selections. Sprecher, New Glarus Brewing and New Belgium Brewing will each have two microbrews on tap. The inclusion of microbrews is especially fitting on Brady Street where, according to Short, “more micro and specialty beers are poured by bars throughout the year than in any other area of the city.”

If beer isn't your thing, check out the drink specials being shaken, stirred and blended along the sidewalk as the street's bars take advantage of the expanded outdoor patronage.

At 6 p.m. stylish festivalgoers will appreciate the annual fashion show. “Virtually every clothing store on Brady Street showcases several outfits and accessories,” Salvia says. At 7 p.m. the fun continues with the divas featured in the always-popular drag show. “Truly a unique offering of the Brady Street Festival,” Short adds.

Music Plays an Instrumental Role

Brady Street Festival features three music stages and a wide variety of tunes. Things kick off at 11:30 a.m. at the Knight-Barry Title Stage with the R&B/funk/blues blend of the Charles Walker Band. The crowd will be jumping when award-winning ska band Primitive Culture hits the stage at 3 p.m. The dulcet tones of headlining Motown tribute band The Tempters will win the hearts of the audience at 8 p.m.

“They have choreography and matching attire—quite entertaining,” Short says.

Together with 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, the Bud Light Stage opens at noon with Midwestern folk-rock band Will Phalen and The Stereo Addicts. At 4 p.m. reggae fans will sway to the beat of Dubtonic Kru, direct from Jamaica.

“This takes the festival to a new level,” Short says. “For the first time we are featuring an international group, where in the past we've only had regional talent.”

At 8 p.m. headliners U2 Zoo will offer a celebration of U2 as they pay homage to Bono and the gang.

The Humboldt Stage features a noon show by blues/rock band Altered Five and a 3:30 p.m. performance by The Carpetbaggers. Headliner Alex Wilson, a Brady Street favorite, will be singing the blues at 7:30 p.m.

When asked what makes the Brady Street Festival so special, Salvia responds, “It's one day that everyone can set aside their differences and just celebrate what Brady Street is.”

“It's an intermingling of a diverse group that speaks to the best qualities of Milwaukee,” Short adds.

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