This Saturday Bay View’s Kinnickinnic Avenue will close down only to be flooded with drag queens, flame throwers, food vendors, a strong man competition and an expected 25,000 people.
This weekend, the Bay View community will hold the 10th anniversary of Bay View Bash, celebrating one of Milwaukee’s best-known neighborhoods.
In the past 30 years, Bay View transformed from a working-class Milwaukee spot in the ’80s and ’90s into today’s land of coffee shops and vintage kitsch.
This year’s festival will take over the neighborhood’s central street Kinnickinnic, better known as “KK” on Sept. 21 from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. The event will include a drag show featuring the queens of the Bay View diner Hamburger Mary’s, the flame-throwing and antics of Dead Man’s Carnival and a series of cover bands playing the music of bands from The Who to Foo Fighters.
Besides the drag queens, local bands and the unique Bay View vibe, volunteers help make the festival special. The bash is the largest all-volunteer street festival in Milwaukee, run entirely by local people from the neighborhood.
Bill Sell, an active volunteer, explained the origins of the bash.
“There are all kinds of reasons,” explained Sell. “Some people thought a street bash would be good for the community, help people raise money for community organizations and some people just wanted to hear music.”
The Bay View Bash also boasts the distinction of being a near zero waste festival.
“This is the third year we have composted at the bash,” said Melissa Tashijan, the volunteer executive director and a founder of Kompost Kids. “Each year we are getting better and better. Last year we diverted about ten yards worth of material.”
To accomplish this goal, all food vendors use compostable products provided by the bash. After the festivities are over, the compost is collected and sent to a compost farm in Caledonia, Wis.
“I think we need to take responsibility over our waste stream,” said Tashijan. “These types of fun activities and festivals (are) where lots of people gather (and) build up a lot of trash, and it doesn’t have to be like that.”
Along with the loftier eco-friendly goal, the Bay View Bash provides lighter entertainment from Spoof Fest, local bands, a demonstration stage and a dog walk.
West Goad, the lead singer and guitarist from The 57s, a band scheduled to perform at the bash said, “ We have not played (at the) Bay View Bash before, (but) we are excited to play because it’s a showcase and celebration of everything that is Bay View.”
The demonstration stage includes a variety of entertainment, from a strong man and break dancing competition to a drag show featuring the divas of Hamburger Mary’s.
This is Hamburger Mary’s first year performing at the Bash. Gary Olsen, the general manager of Hamburger Mary’s, said, “We thought it would be neat to introduce something new to the Bay View community.”
Dear Ruthie, a performer at Hamburger Mary’s, will be hosting a variety show as Joan Rivers. Other performers that will accompany her on stage dressing as stars like Cher, Britney Spears, Aretha Franklin, Whoopi Goldberg and Liza Minnelli.
Hamburger Mary’s is known for its charitable work, and will host a fifty-fifty raffle with half of the proceeds going to the winner, 25 percent going to charity and the last quarter going to the bash itself.
In addition to live music and performances, the Bay View Bark is sponsoring its third annual Dog Walk event. Registration begins at 10:30 a.m. and the participants who register will receive a Bay View Bark swag bag including treats for dogs and owners alike.
Manager Krystal Kitazaki said, “The community is a very dog-friendly area, which is what makes the Dog Walk a success.”
The activity holds both a best costume competition as well as a doggy owner look alike contest. Prizes include gift cards to use at local shops and restaurants in the Bay View area.
“There is not a specific theme for the costume contest,” advises Kitazaki. “So get as creative as you can.”
It is not surprising a neighborhood as eclectic and ever-changing as Bay View has a festival full character. For lovers of this south-side Milwaukee favorite, the festival will remind you why Bay View is worth a ride across town.
Special to the Tribune