Johnsonville replaces Klement’s as sausage sponsor at Summerfest

Don Smiley announces Johnsonville as a new Summerfest sponsor.

A new sausage company is coming to Henry Maier Festival Park.

Milwaukee World Festival Inc., the presenters of Summerfest, on Friday announced Sheboygan Falls-based Johnsonville LLC as a new sponsor of Summerfest with a multi-year sponsorship.

Johnsonville co-owner Ralph Stayer said he and his wife Shelly have wanted to be part of Summerfest for many years. Johnsonville has sponsorship agreements with several other major Wisconsin tourism attractions including Lambeau Field and American Family Field.

The original founders of Johnsonville, Ralph’s parents, were from the Milwaukee area, and Ralph and Shelly Stayer live in Milwaukee.

“We are a part of Milwaukee and always have been. It is our biggest market and was our first big market,” Ralph Stayer said. “We love Milwaukee, and we love Summerfest. To be able to finally be a sponsor of Summerfest is something that has been a life-long dream, and now it’s happening.”

Johnsonville will take over the north end stage that was most recently under a previous sponsorship agreement with Klement’s Sausage.

“They (Johnsonville) are a great company,” Milwaukee World Festival CEO Don Smiley said. “They are a Wisconsin-based company. They care about what happens in Wisconsin, and it’s proof by virtue of the sponsorship that we entered into, a multi-year sponsorship, that we entered into with them.”

Milwaukee World Festival recently withdrew a lawsuit against Klement’s Sausage Co. of Milwaukee and ended its multi-year sponsorship agreement with the sausage manufacturer. The agreement with Klement’s was signed in 2018 and set to run through 2027. It included the naming rights to the Klement’s Sausage and Beer Garden.

That new stage now will be called Summerville in honor of the new Johnsonville sponsorship. Smiley described the north end stage as “an intimate stage with Wisconsin-based artists.” It will include activations such as yard games, grilling demonstrations and sampling of Johnsonville products.

“It’ll take a real active look compared to what it used to be,” Smiley added.

Johnsonville will also be the official sausage, hot dog and sausage stick of Summerfest. Johnsonville products will also be served at the festival park and American Family Insurance Amphitheater. Those products include everything from brats and cheddar smoked sausages to hot dogs and Polish or Italian sausages.

Shelly Stayer added that her husband makes a small-batch hot dog, which she calls the best in the world. That is not available at retail but will be available for purchase on the Summerfest grounds.

“When you think about stretch goals or lifelong dreams, it’s a big deal,” she said. “When you think about the American Dream and it’s just really exciting for us to be a major sponsor.”

Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed. Smiley said it is crucial to have what he called “blue-chip companies like Johnsonville” to keep to Milwaukee World Festival’s nonprofit mission of bringing people together. Summerfest, Smiley said, is able to have an affordable ticket prices because of sponsors like Johnsonville.

Summerfest will celebrate its 55th anniversary in 2023. It will continue with its multi-weekend, Thursday through Saturday model from June 22-24, June 29 to July 1 and July 6-8.

Margaret Nazcek, Milwaukee Business Journal

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