A constant flow of around 200 people drank beer, ate brats and danced at Milwaukee’s first Schlitztoberfest Saturday, Oct. 9 from 1 to 9 p.m. on West Juneau Avenue outside Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery.
The Schlitz-sponsored event hosted four local bands: The Squeezettes, a polka band, and ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s cover bands, The Beanstalks, Liam Ford Band and Exhibit A.
Best Place volunteers Melissa Doorn, 38, Kevin Benninger, 20, a sophomore at Marquette, and two other men served Schlitz and Pabst Blue Ribbon beers from a Schlitz truck parked near the stage.
“Upon request, we combined Schlitz and Pabst to create ‘Schlabst,’ a mixture similar to a Black and Tan,” Benninger said.
Best Place also served Schlitz, Pabst, Blatz and Old Milwaukee beers on tap inside the building.
Milwaukee brat house served Usinger’s bratwursts, Usinger’s hot dogs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, soda and water at a stand outside.
Best Place volunteers sold decaled Schlitz t-shirts that they pressed onto multicolored American Apparel and Fruit of the Loom shirts with a screen press outside.
With the support of friends and friends of friends, event organizer Laurie Gross, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, explained her strategy in planning the event:
“I tried to target the Schlitz demographic, so everything from young Schlitz drinker to the older demographic that remembers the classic Schlitz formula from the ‘60s.”
Best Place owner Jim Haertel staffed the event with his employees and volunteers.
Brothers Russ and Jim Klisch, co-founders of Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery, gave 10 to 30-person tours of Best Place’s Blue Ribbon Hall, Captain’s and King’s courtyards and gift shop every hour on the hour from 1 to 5 p.m.
A photo display of all of the Milwaukee’s old breweries along with written documents of their histories was set up on a long table in the Blue Ribbon Hall.
Several attendees got dressed up for the occasion, like Milwaukee local Richard Pulsfus, who wore his father’s traditional German lederhosen.
Francisco Flores, a buyer and marketing services employee of the Pabst Brewing Company, celebrated his 45th birthday at the event and jokingly said the party was all for him. Originally from San Antonio, Flores was supposed to be relocated to the Chicago Pabst offices but was instead sent to Milwaukee.
With a Schlitz in his hand and a grin on his face, Flores said, “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Anna Ceragioli, a Marquette sophomore who works in the Best Place gift shop, said, “What made Schlitztoberfest so fun, was everyone’s enthusiasm to enjoy a current celebration at a historic place.”
“We had drunken people in lederhosen dancing around Juneau Avenue,” she said. “When else can you do that?”
Best Place owner Jim Haertel, not knowing what to expect, said he thought the event a great success.
Gross had similar thoughts: “I had no idea what to expect. Honestly we were preparing from anything from 50 people to 5,000, so I was pleasantly surprised and very pleased with how many people were there.”
Upcoming events at Best Place include a performance from the Mood Swing Orchestra, a 17-piece band, on Tuesday, Oct. 12 from 7 to 9 p.m.; Rocktoberfest with The Beanstalks, a local rock cover band, on Saturday, Oct. 23 from 7 to 11 p.m.; and free Best Place “Open House” on Sunday, Nov. 14 from noon to 6 p.m., featuring the “Breweriana Roadshow.
The question now: Will there be a Schlitztoberfest next year?
“That’s definitely a possibility,” said Gross. “Schlitz is doing great, and it seemed to be a good event.”
by Melanie Pawlyszyn