Last year, Summerfest was so crowded, some got in for free! Officials say it won’t happen this year!

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Summerfest is a big deal in Milwaukee, across the country and abroad. The Big Gig's popularity has been a source of growing pains, but measures have been taken to make sure things run smoothly this year.

Last year, there was a night of Summerfest when the crowd was so large at the gates, people were let in for free to ease congestion.

Summerfest officials say: Don't expect a repeat this year.

Around 2:00 p.m. on Opening Day of Summerfest, the crowd wasn't quite a crowd. But as the clock ticked, attendance grew.

One day during last year's Big Gig, the crowd became overwhelming.

"At a certain point the congestion did build up and we did make the decision to open up the gates and allow those folks in to alleviate the congestion and then we went back to normal ticket selling operations," John Boler, Chief Marketing Officer at Summerfest said.

At the time, one patron described the scene:

"There was people everywhere! Shoulder to shoulder, wall to wall -- people just trying to get out," a Summerfest attendee said.

An estimated 117,000 people packed Henry Maier Festival Park.

Boler says a combination of factors contributed to the chaos.

"We believe there were a variety of factors involved which included the first Saturday night of Summerfest, the first very warm night of Summerfest, a great lineup at Summerfest, and the issue with the patrons coming without tickets in large volumes in a very concentrated time period," Boler said.

Gloria Sroka of Indiana is attending Summerfest for the very first time this year.

"The more people the better! I'm not shy. I'm ready to have some fun today," Sroka said.

Boler says Sroka and others have nothing to worry about.

For this year's Big Gig -- Boler says officials have done a better job emphasizing fest-goers purchase and print tickets online.

"We have created the ability to expand our ticket selling operations as needed if the volume warrants," Boler said.

Heavy ticket purchasing and the security checks helped lead to the bottle-necking last year, but Summerfest officials say fest-goers shouldn't expect another incident like that to lead to free admission.

CLICK HERE for much more information on Summerfest 2014 -- including the talent lineup and information on purchasing tickets.


  • Ralph

    Did Don Smiley offer a refund to those that paid to get in that day, or did he just keep all the money for his $800,000 salary?

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