The Summer Soulstice Music Festival and Arts Fair ran from noon until midnight on E. North Ave. this past Saturday, June 24th. The crowd grew as the night went on and the music was non-stop on all three stages which featured a total of 18 bands.
The sun shined brightly all day, with a small rain spell that lasted only 20 minutes. Afterwards, the street and sidewalks dried up quickly and the clouds receded, allowing all festival-goers to enjoy the rest of the evening.
“The weather was perfect. It was a little windy, but it’s much better than the 100 degree weather we had last year,” said John Schroeder, a returning Summer Soulstice fan. “I came back this because of the whole vibe of the festival, the atmosphere, the place is clean, and the people are always friendly and very considerate. It’s a great crowd.”
Kicking off at noon, the festival had various shows and activities for people of all ages. In the Children’s Activity Area on Murray Avenue there was a huge blow-up ‘house’ that kids could race each other through to see who made it out first.
The next side street over, off of North Ave., featured a BMX Bike Stunt show. A group of four guys, a younger girl and a nine-year old boy, showed off their talents as they rode over two BMX quarter pipes.
Justin Gagne sat on the sidewalk to watch the show. His dad owns a bike shop, so he grew up riding bikes and has been with the BMX team for almost five years now. Gagne raved about Riley, the nine-year old.
“It’s cool the team took the kid under their wing,” said Gagne. “I know at that age I’d be too afraid to do anything like that.”
Starting on the East end of North Avenue. was a gated-in area for dodgeball. The crowd surrounded all sides of the gate, watching people get pelted with soft basketball-sized balls.
Just further down, on the corner of Farwell and North, was the Adventure Rock Wall with three sides and four ropes that secured your safety after straddling up and starting your climb to the top. There were kids as young as four years old taking a crack at it.
Besides the shows and activities, there were countless arts and crafts vendors, some of them including Studio Sweers, Rawkstar Printing, Wiskullsin, Birdsong, Milwaukee Home, and Bijoux. Schroeder visited KNL Jewelry and bought a gold-filled necklace and a ring.
“It was $80 for the two, but worth every penny,” Schroeder said.
Artists travel to different festivals to show off their handcrafted jewelry, their photographs and their artwork. Some sold essential oils, incense, as well as soaps and lotions.
Gagne mentioned how his girlfriend kept having him smell oils and candles. “My favorite scent was the Merlot Wine from ECE Candles,” he admitted.
Let’s not forget the fantastic food ranging from Chubby’s Cheesesteaks, Afro Fusion, and Bee’s Cusine, to the Donut Squad and various food trucks like Press Waffles and Meat on the Street.
Later in the afternoon, Gagne visited the Hidden Kitchen food truck. “I had the brunch bowl; it had rice, beans, some onions, and some sort of sweet sauce with a fried egg on top. Even at 4:00 in the afternoon, a fried egg sounded good, and it was.”
Throughout the day, several restaurants and bars were offering up a chance to win prizes, food and drinks. You could try your hand at putting a hole in one at Nine Below for a chance to win a free drink.
“I tried shooting a card down with a nerf gun at FreshFin trying to win a free bowl of food,” said Schroeder.
At Vitucci’s, they were giving away free trading cards. Some were baseball cards, some were collector cards featuring The Hunger Games movies, and some were post-card sized, featuring the movie Frozen.
The music ended at midnight and the crowd slowly shuffled off the street and headed home. This year was the 17th year in a row that the Summer Soulstice Music Festival and Arts Fair has graced Milwaukee’s East Side with its presence.
As Schroeder said, and I’m sure as others could agree, “It definitely didn’t disappoint.”