Summerfest is the latest music festival to require proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test

Chris Foran Piet Levy
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

If you want to go to Summerfest 2021, you're going to have to add a COVID vaccination to your list of what to bring to the festival. 

Milwaukee World Festival Inc., which operates the Wisconsin music festival, one of the largest in the United States, announced Tuesday that a COVID-19 vaccination or negative COVID-19 test result will be required to attend Summerfest, which runs Sept. 2 to 4, 9 to 11, and 16 to 18.

The requirement also covers the Wednesday standalone "preview" concerts before those dates at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater, as well as a Milwaukee World Festival-produced concert with Little Big Town and the BoDeans Aug. 13.

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Summerfest's move comes as more music venues and performers push for more safety measures as COVID-19 cases surge again around the country.

“We collaborated with national health experts and music industry executives and determined this was the best course of action for Summerfest.” Don Smiley, president and chief executive officer of Milwaukee World Festival Inc., said in a statement.

“Milwaukee World Festival has been a community leader and a tremendous partner in prioritizing the health of festival staff, vendors, performers, and attendees throughout their planning,” Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said in the same statement. “We are pleased with their proactive decision to implement these additional safety measures and ensure festivalgoers can feel comfortable attending this beloved music fest responsibly.”

What Summerfest is requiring 

According to Milwaukee World Festival's statement, Summerfest attendees will be asked at the entry gate to show a valid COVID-19 vaccination card or proof of a negative test. An original vaccination card, a printed copy of a valid vaccination card or a negative test will be accepted. Documentation may also be digital, such as a screenshot or photo on a phone.  

For patrons who are not fully vaccinated, a negative COVID-19 test result must be obtained within 72 hours of attending the festival. 

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Masks will also be required for all children 12 and younger, according to a Summerfest spokeswoman. Children younger than 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Also, children younger than 12 will not be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test. 

Summerfest is not requiring masks for visitors over the age of 12, although in its statement the festival urged, per current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, that attendees wear masks in indoor spaces on the Summerfest grounds. The CDC also recommends masks for unvaccinated people when they're at large gatherings. 

Due to the fluidity of the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, Summerfest's safety protocols and procedures could change, the spokeswoman said. The festival plans to keep fans updated on its website. 

Summerfest also said it would have information on refunds for general-admission and concert tickets on its website "in the days to come." 

More concerts, venues adding COVID-19 protocols 

Summerfest 2021 had been set for its usual June-July dates but was postponed until September in the hopes of getting out from under the COVID-19 pandemic. It returns next month after being canceled in 2020, the first cancellation in the festival’s 53-year history. 

The pandemic also forced music venues in Milwaukee and much of the country to abruptly close their doors in March 2020. Only this summer have they begun to host shows again, prompted by growing vaccination rates and a decline in COVID-19 cases this spring. 

But as cases have surged across the country in recent days with the rise of the more-contagious delta variant, music venues, and some performers, have been pushing for more safety protocols such as requiring masks or proof of vaccination. 

But not everyone is on board with those policies just yet. In fact, Milwaukee World Festival is hosting multiple shows at the amphitheater and BMO Harris Pavilion outside of Summerfest that have yet to announce a vaccine or negative test requirement.

Those include: Chris Tomlin (Aug. 15 at the pavilion); Maroon 5 (Aug. 19 at the amphitheater); Doobie Brothers (Aug. 24, pavilion); Hall & Oates (Aug. 28, amphitheater); KISS (Sept. 5, amphitheater); Mt. Joy and Trampled by Turtles (Sept. 24, pavilion); Slipknot (Sept. 29, amphitheater); Alice Cooper (Oct. 1, pavilion) and Primus (Oct. 8, pavilion).

Ticket holders will be notified of any new protocols for those shows, and any new information will be posted on the amphitheater and pavilion websites.

Contact Chris Foran at Follow him on Twitter at @cforan12.