Mile of Music returns to Wisconsin this week


Wausau Pilot & Review

After a year-long hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions, Mile of Music is returning August 5-8, bringing hundreds of music sets to dozens of venues – both traditional and non-traditional – in downtown Appleton.

Willems Marketing & Events, which has launched and produced the free, multi-venue music festival since its inception in 2013, officially made the return of the popular festival – once dubbed the “fire pants of music” by an enthusiastic fan – in June.

Dave Willems, President of Willems Marketing & Events (WME) and festival curator, said this year’s event will incorporate practical, sensible measures to reconcile the return to live music-loving normalcy with the realities of life amid the waning pandemic.

“More than ever, we are asking our fans, artists and venues to continue working together to bring common courtesy to the stage again at this year’s festival,” said Willems. “This is an opportunity for Appleton to continue to show the state and the country that we can do something very special while doing it responsibly and safely as we recover from such difficult days.”

Photo courtesy of Mile of Music

Willems said Mile 8 will provide many of the features that original music fans from Wisconsin and across the country – a typical Mile festival attracting fans from all 50 states – expect from the walk-in, fun-filled event that begins at noon have Thursday and lasts until around 6 p.m. on Sunday, usually on the first weekend in August of each year. This year’s return of the festival after the 2020 pandemic break also offers an impressive scope and scope with almost 650 live music sets and music education sessions during the four-day main run at more than 40 venues and festival rooms.

Willems said Mile 8 will feature approximately 150 original music artists and members of the Lawrence music education team.

“We’re excited to see the number of artists impressive again and that the list itself will be full of talented national, regional, national and local artists,” he said.

One of the big adjustments for Mile 8 will be moving a significant amount of the music from indoors to outdoors. While the average proportion of outdoor music at the festival was around 25 percent, the festival’s executive director, Mike Van Thull of WME, said this year’s event will be roughly split between outdoor and indoor events.

“After the pandemic, we think this is the right modification for this year,” said Van Thull. “With more outside space, we become more prone to weather problems, but it’s meant to be a one-year shift.”

Another important change, Van Thull said, is that there will always be live music sets available on all four days of Mile 8, which can be seen outside during times when indoor music is played. In essence, he said, the festival will start every day in the outdoor facilities, and both outdoor and indoor facilities will end at around the same time each night – at 11 p.m. outdoors and between 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. for the halls.

“That way, attendees always have the advantage of being able to attend outdoor music whenever they want,” he said.

Three of The Mile’s main stages are located in the largest of the available outdoor areas downtown: Jones Park, Washington Square, and the parking lot at The Core, hosted by Spats, which allows larger crowds to gather and enter for more personal space than the smaller parking lot next to Spats.

The medium-sized outdoor stages include again Fox River House, Emmett’s, The Courtyard Stage in the Red Lion Hotel Paper Valley, Riverside Bar & Grill, the D2 Patio, the Ormsby Green area on the Lawrence Campus and McFleshman’s beer garden.

Photo courtesy of Mile of Music

Some traditional indoor locations will move outside or increase their outdoor presence, including: Stone Arch, which will be moved from the Tap Room to their outside area; Beginners moving from their terrace to the larger parking lot on the other side of their building; Mondo !, which will move between the 222 Building and Copper Rock in The Parklet; and a new outdoor stage behind Jim’s Place and Wooden Nickel, as these two formerly indoor locations merge and work together on an outdoor stage. This year only, Houdini Plaza will showcase some of the festival’s best acoustic acts in a more relaxed festival setting.

“Washington Square offers a lot more space for distance this year,” said Van Thull. The Houdini Plaza will return to its role as the main stage in 2022, according to Van Thull.

A more subtle adjustment, but an important “safer songs” measure, will be to allow more time between artist sets at Mile 8. Ian Thomson, who leads the effort to book the artists and plan the extensive festival, said the increase to 35 minutes between each live set at all venues will allow artists to move from one performance to the next less hectically and more confidently.

As part of their mitigation plan with the City of Appleton, Meilen organizers have asked indoor venues to change their capacity for Mile 8 a little lower.

All musical performances are free to attend. For information on venues, artists and opening times, visit the Mile of Music official website.

About Gloria Skelton

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