Fromm Petfest continues to grow in attendance and festival scope

Fromm Petfest, the first event to allow pets on the grounds that host the annual Summerfest music festival, is taking up a major chunk of the lakefront festival space in 2019 to accommodate a growing number of people and pets.

The sixth-annual Fromm Petfest returns to the Henry Maier Festival Park at 200 N. Harbor Drive Sept. 21 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Petfest is a one-day festival that offers free admission and free parking and welcomes not just adults and children, but also cats and dogs. Bryan Nieman, brand manager for pet food company and sponsor Fromm Family Foods Inc. in Mequon, said the idea for Petfest came from wanting a community event that was accessible to the whole family and free to attend.

“It’s unique because you can bring your entire family including your pets,” Nieman said.

According to Lauren Grimm with Punch Public Relations, 12,500 humans and 5,000 animals attended the 2018 Petfest. The festival expects even higher numbers this year. Year-over-year, the festival has grown about 20%, Grimm said. That includes number of businesses and exhibitors and the overall attendance.

In its first year, the festival only utilized the south gate entrance and the south end of the grounds into the amphitheater forecourt area. This year the festival has its biggest footprint on the park grounds, utilizing the space from the mid gate to south gate entrances. Petfest does not use the main stages but incorporates activities throughout the grounds including dock diving, a lure course, agility course and doggy dash. This year the festival also expanded to the lake path with the lap dog lounge and added more exhibitors and activities in the Miller Stage area.

Petfest charges for some ticketed attractions. The children’s area, which includes face painting and other activities, is free. The most expensive price for an attraction is three tickets for $6. The festival also offers promotions if attendees purchase a larger number of tickets.

Money from ticket sales will go to the following organizations: the Wisconsin Humane Society, Occupaws, Journey Together Service Dogs, MKE K9 Foundation, Concordia University, MIAD and Lutheran Church Services Comfort Dogs.

The festival declined to disclose revenue figures.

Nieman said the dream is to one day expand the festival to other cities. Fromm Family Foods’ products are now sold in 7,000 neighborhood pet stores throughout North America. For now, though, he said the plan is to continue in just Milwaukee and to maintain the festival as a free event.

“We want to keep it a community event. We want to reach all the pet parents in southeastern Wisconsin,” Nieman said.

Margaret Naczek, Milwaukee Business Journal

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