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African World Festival

Image of a drummer and a dancer performing in an outdoor space. On the left is the shirtless man with a drum strap on his neck and a djembe resting between his legs. His palms float in the air ready to hit the drum. On the right side is the female dancer moving her body expressively in an animal print costume. Her braided hairs fly in the air; her hands and one of her legs are floating in a dance motion.
African World Festival celebrated the development of African culture and heritage in Africa as well as the Americas, from the age of the Atlantic slave trade to the modern era. Attendees could learn about African history through performances of traditional African dance, drumming, and storytelling. A replica of an African village was also constructed on… Read More

Al Jarreau

Photograph of Al Jarreau performing in 2006 at his alma mater, Ripon College, located in Ripon, Wisconsin.
Al Jarreau, the “Acrobat of Scat,” was a jazz icon and constant performer who never forgot his Milwaukee roots. He was born in 1940 in Milwaukee to a musical household—his mother taught piano and played the organ in church, while his father was a singer. He sang in the church choir with his brothers and… Read More

America’s Black Holocaust Museum

The facade of America's Black Holocaust Museum against a dark blue sky in the background. The building is located at the corner of an intersection near two traffic lights, one displaying red color, and the other showing green. The first floor of the building emits light through its clear glass walls. A large "ABHM" sign is installed at the front of the facade.
America’s Black Holocaust Museum is a one-of-its kind institution dedicated to documenting the history of violence against African Americans. It was founded on Juneteenth Day, 1988, by Dr. James Cameron, who as a teenager in 1930 narrowly escaped being lynched in Marion, Indiana. The museum initially was located at 317 West Wright Street, but later… Read More

Arab World Fest

Color photograph of a marketplace showing a pavilion with a large sign written in red that reads "Souk" and the Arabic translation underneath. Various products such as fabric shawls and balloons are displayed in the building. Many hang vertically under the pavilion's ceiling. Several people interact or mill around in front of and inside the building.
Arabs are an ethnic linguistic group who trace their cultural heritage to one or more of the twenty-two modern Arab nation states. They began to settle in Milwaukee in late nineteenth century and since then have contributed significantly to the cultural, social, economic, and political life of the city and its surrounding regions. The Arab-Syrian… Read More

Asian Moon Festival

A page of the UWM Post newspaper showing an advertisement for the 2005 Asian Moon Festival. Prominently appears on the page is a design that resembles the shape of the moon and beach waves. Next to the picture is the date and location of the festival, given as "June 17-19, Summerfest Grounds, Milwaukee, Wisconsin." Below them are the ticketing information and the website address. The bottom part of the newspaper page shows the logos and names of the event's sponsors.
In 1994, the Wisconsin Organization for Asian Americans announced the creation of Asian Moon Festival. Named after the festival in Amy Tan’s children’s book, The Moon Lady, the multi-day celebration took place at the north end of the Henry Maier Festival Grounds and offered visitors the opportunity to experience a variety of Asian cultures through… Read More

Bastille Days

A man in a half squat position balances a tray with a wine bottle and a wine glass in his right hand as he moves under a horizontal pole. His body leans to his left while his eyes concentrate on the tray. A bunch of people sit in the grass field several feet behind him while watching the Bastille Days waiters' race.
As the only Milwaukee ethnic celebration that operates as a genuine street festival, Bastille Days has been held in the Cathedral Square neighborhood on the East Side every July since 1982. The multi-day festival is inspired by Bastille Day, the French national holiday, which commemorates the storming of the eponymous prison on July 14, 1789,… Read More

Bel Canto Chorus

High-angle shot of a side view of a theater's stage where members of the Bel Canto Chorus perform with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. The musicians with instruments perform on stage while hundreds of singers stand in the seating areas.
Milwaukee’s Bel Canto Chorus originated in the city’s numerous German singing clubs of the 1930s, a tradition brought to the area by nineteenth-century immigrants. One group, the “Festival Singers of Milwaukee,” founded in 1931 as a small a capella chorus, featured eight volunteers who performed sacred music. The organization evolved into the Bel Canto Chorus,… Read More

Betty Brinn Children’s Museum

A person in a "Smokey the Bear" points to a forest fire-related learning board while interacting with two children dressed up in hotshot crew uniforms. The US wildfire prevention mascot wears blue jeans, a brown belt, and a round hat bearing the name "Smokey." They are standing in a colorful exhibit arena.
The Betty Brinn Children’s Museum reflects a larger national trend of educational institutions embracing a child-centered design. Since 1975, the number of children’s museums in the U.S. has grown from approximately 38 to nearly 350 in 2015. By that year there were at least ten children’s museums in Wisconsin alone. Opened in April 1995, Milwaukee’s… Read More

Billie the Brownie

A smiling doll wearing an elf hat appears between two men. One in a Santa costume sits on the left, and one wearing a formal suit sits on the right. Both men look at an open book that the man in the suit holds. Written on the book cover is its title, "Tales from Storyland."
Billie the Brownie was a multi-media star of Christmas in Milwaukee from the 1920s to the 1950s. Years earlier, the writer and artist Palmer Cox had popularized “Brownies”—he created dozens of the little men, each with a different ethnic background, personality, and occupation—in scores of stories published in children’s magazines late in the nineteenth century.… Read More

Boerner Botanical Gardens

Image of a painted postcard displaying the green landscape of the Boerner Botanical Gardens and an administration building set in the background between lush trees. Colorful plants and green lawns appear everywhere surrounding a tall tree that stands prominently in the center of this picture.
The Botanical Gardens, a highlight of Milwaukee County’s nationally-recognized PARK system, are a product of Depression-era labor. CHARLES WHITNALL, a long-time member of the County Park Commission, pushed for the acquisition of park land in the 1920s. He envisioned such space as an escape from urban life. The gardens were built in the park named… Read More

Carl Sandburg

Photograph of Carl Sandburg sitting with his typewriter at his home in Illinois, circa 1917-1918.
Poet, journalist, novelist, and biographer of Abraham Lincoln, Carl Sandburg came to Wisconsin from Chicago in late 1907 to be a political organizer in rural Wisconsin for the state’s Social Democratic Party. Sandburg rose rapidly among Milwaukee’s Socialists between 1908 and 1912 because of his enthusiasm for the local brand of socialism and his powerful… Read More

City of Festivals Parade

High-angle shot of Wisconsin Avenue during the 1983 inaugural City of Festivals Parade shows a line of floats stretching down the road. The crowd on the sidewalks gazes at the floats decorated in various themes, shapes and sizes.
Inspired after witnessing the parade and pageantry that commences Munich’s Oktoberfest, Mayor Henry Maier envisioned something similar to kick off Milwaukee’s festival season. Beginning in 1983, the City of Festivals Parade opened Milwaukee’s summer festivals and celebrated the city’s ethnic diversity. Every June, high school bands and floats featuring ethnic dances and musicians wound their… Read More

Dance

Two dancers show a giant leap with expressive visages floating above a flat green-colored surface. They perform in predominantly navy-colored costumes highlighted by stage lighting.
Milwaukee’s tradition of performance has been nurtured by a mix of professional companies focused on modern dance and ballet. Because dance has been marginal in Milwaukee’s arts economy, educational institutions such as the Wisconsin College of Music and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts (UWM) have been crucial to sustaining the field… Read More

Discovery World

Photograph of Discovery World showcases its iconic circular aquarium on the left. Adjacent to it is the seating area of an outdoor event venue. This arena sits on Milwaukee's lake shore. The US Bank Building and the blue sky are in the background.
Officially opened in 1984, Discovery World emphasizes hands-on learning and scientific exploration for both children and adults. Its founder, Robert Powrie Harland, Sr., was inspired to create such a facility following Apollo 13 astronaut James Lovell’s visit to Milwaukee. Harland, director of the Todd Wehr Foundation, worked with business leaders to establish the original museum… Read More

Festa Italiana

Grayscale high-angle shot of the 1980 Festa Italiana procession winding through a huge crowd of people. Some participants carry Italian and American flags, religious statues, and banners.
Festa Italiana, held annually since 1978, represented the first of Milwaukee’s modern ethnic festivals and an effort to recapture the spirit of a vanishing community. In the 1960s, Milwaukee’s urban renewal plans led to the demolition of Our Blessed Virgin of Pompeii Church in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. By the time the little pink church had… Read More

Festivals

Grayscale long shot of three men in suits and ties standing beside a booth selling one-dollar festival buttons. The seller's face appears from behind the ticket window.
Festivals have long been a major part of the cultural, social, and economic fabric of Milwaukee. Early festivals were often celebrations of a shared ethnic heritage. As the turn of the century approached, city leaders recognized the potential of these events to draw visitors from across the nation, and Milwaukee began to emerge as a… Read More

First Stage Children’s Theater

On-stage performance featuring a small group of actors in colorful clothes and expressive gestures. They act in standing position on an indoor stage filled with vintage properties and a huge mural painting in the background.
First Stage Children’s Theater was founded in 1987 when the Milwaukee Performing Arts Center formed a group to provide arts education to the children of Milwaukee and southern Wisconsin. According to its website, from a class of 350 in 1987, First Stage has grown into one of the largest youth theater groups in the nation… Read More

Florentine Opera Company

In 2010, the Florentine Opera Company performed "Elmer Gantry," an opera based on the Sinclair Lewis novel known by the same title.
As one of Wisconsin’s oldest professional music organizations, this company earned the city national recognition for over seventy years. Formed in 1933 as the Italian Chorus at the Jackson Street Social Center, according to one source, the group originally intended to attract immigrants to English language classes that would prepare them for American citizenship. Their… Read More

Food

Horse-drawn carts full of produce line Commission Row on Broadway Street.
Even though it is a brutally cold December day in the city, the Milwaukee Public Market—an indoor collection of close to twenty food and drink vendors that opened in 2005—is packed. It is lunchtime, and men and women who work downtown are taking advantage of the market’s proximity to the office towers that they will… Read More

Frozen Custard

Exterior view of Leon's Frozen Custard stand and drive-in against a cloudy sky. The large yellow store sign is installed on top of the building. Different kinds of equipment placed right next to the store's glass wall are visible from the outside.
Frozen custard caused a sensation at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. Although similar to ice cream, custard contains more cream and less milk, along with egg yolk and butterfat, which gives it a smoother texture and richer taste than ice cream. Following the fair, Wisconsinites brought it north, opening custard stands in the greater… Read More
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