As holiday origin stories go, Milwaukee Day’s beginning is hardly the pilgrims feasting with the American Indians at Plimoth Plantation, or Jesus rising from the dead three days after his execution.
“Milwaukee Day started as a numerical pun,” explains Timm Gable, one of the event’s organizers.
Two years ago Gable’s friend Toby Silverman noticed a mundane coincidence: The abbreviation for the date April 14 (4/14) is roughly the same as the city’s area code (414). He suggested that date be called Milwaukee Day. His friends expanded on the idea, brainstorming ways the day could be used to celebrate the character that makes Milwaukee “the best city in the world.”
“We want to celebrate everything we love about the city, and encourage others to do the same,” says Brent Gohde, another Milwaukee Day organizer. “It was such a simple idea that we were shocked nobody had thought of it before. We’re surprised other cities are not doing similar celebrations. If San Francisco were to have San Francisco Day, it would be April 15, 415, but they’re not planning any events that we know of.”
The friends announced the holiday last April 14 with an online video encouraging the city to im bibe
in its own Milwaukeeness. “Take a moment to celebrate Milwaukee as best you can,” Milwaukee Day spokesman Andy Silverman said in the video. “Buy local. Eat some custard. Hug a Brewer. Shotgun a PBR with Danny freaking Gokey. Whatever you do, wherever you are, just make sure you live and breathe Milwaukee today.” The take-away was that there’s no wrong way to celebrate Milwaukee Day. The video ended with a promise of major parties for this year’s Milwaukee Day, and a call for viewers to create their own.
Over the last few weeks, the organizers have announced plans for about 10 of this year’s events on milwaukeeday.com. Among them are an outdoor party at the corner of North Avenue and Oakland Avenue, with performances from Hugh Bob and the Hustle, Boy Blue, The Gazettiers, The Delta Routine and Jayk; dual lineups of bands at the Cactus Club (The Cave Singers, Absolutely, Greatest Lakes, Icarus Himself and Slow Walker) and Club Garibaldi (Sat. Nite Duets, Northless, Moon Curse, Across Tundras and Hearts of Stone); a free local short-film festival at Hotel Foster; a Brew City Bruisers afterparty at Turner Hall Ballroom; a Group of the Altos performance at the Riverwest Public House; a party at Cream City Skate Park; and a Washington Park cleanup. There will also be a Milwaukee Day launch party on Friday, April 13, at G-Daddy’s BBC to mark the midnight arrival of Milwaukee Day; it’ll feature performances from Prophetic and the punk-leaning AC/DC tribute band Big Balls.
Organizers say they’ll continue to post April 14 events to the Milwaukee Day website throughout the week. They’ll also be announcing specials and discounts from local businesses on the site. “We’ve been reaching out to a lot of local shops, restaurants and bars, encouraging them to offer a special sandwich or a signature cocktail, so we’re going to post a page specifically for discount specials soon,” Gohde says. “We have a few other surprises in the works, too.”
“What’s been so fun about organizing this event is that as we were asking ourselves who we should talk to about getting involved, we realized the answer was ‘everybody,’” Gable adds. “The question became, ‘Who shouldn’t we talk to?’ Who isn’t going to be excited about this? Anybody who has a business or who enjoys living in Milwaukee, this is a celebration for them.”
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