The Mile of Music team is thrilled to announce the return of Mile of Music (Mile 8) this August 5-8, 2021! We have lots of details to share, so please read the full press release below!
With the mantra of “let’s all get back in the groove,” the producers of Mile of Music have announced a robust Mile 8 festival for August 5 through 8 in Downtown Appleton, with a call for Mile attendees to continue their tradition of common courtesy, common respect and common-sense in taking in the music more safely at both outdoor and indoor venues during this unusual year.
Willems Marketing & Events, which created and has produced the free, multi-venue, all-original music festival since its inception in 2013, made the return of the popular festival – once called a “firehose of music” by a delighted fan – official today via an announcement released through news and social media.
Dave Willems, president of Willems Marketing & Events (WME) and festival curator, said there will be practical, common sense measures woven into this year’s event to balance the return to live music-loving normalcy with the realities of life amid the subsiding pandemic. “More than ever, we’re asking our fans, artists and host venues to continue working together to again put common courtesy on stage, front and center, for this year’s fest,” Willems said. “This is an opportunity for Appleton to continue to show the state and the country that we can do something very special while doing it responsibly and safely as we bounce back from such difficult days.”
Fox Communities Credit Union, which has been a key sponsor from the very first Mile, is back for a second time as presenting partner of the festival for Mile 8. Fox Communities moved into the presenting partner sponsorship slot in 2019 for Mile 7 and reprises that important support role for the much-anticipated return of The Mile. “Fox Communities Credit Union is excited to be the presenting sponsor of Mile of Music again this year,” said Cathy Harvath, vice president of marketing. “We have been a sponsor, at different levels, since the very beginning of The Mile and we are proud to be a part of such a great musical event that brings so much joy and positive economic impact to our communities. 2020 was a tough year for many local businesses as well as original artists and it’s nice to have an event like Mile of Music back. We look forward to seeing many familiar faces at Mile this year.”
Willems said Mile 8 will offer many of the features that original music fans from Wisconsin and around the country – a typical Mile fest draws fans from all 50 states – have come to expect from the walkable, good vibes-oriented event that begins at noon on Thursday and continues to approximately 6 p.m. on Sunday, typically on the first weekend in August each year. This year’s return of the festival after the 2020 pandemic hiatus also returns an impressive scope and scale to Downtown Appleton, with nearly 650 live music sets and music education sessions throughout the four-day main run at more than 40 host venues and festival spaces. The final list of venues will be announced soon, with some finalization of host spaces still taking place.
Willems said about 150 original music artists and Lawrence music education team members will be featured at Mile 8. “We’re excited that the number of artists is impressive again and the roster itself will be chock-full of talented national, regional, statewide and local performers,” he said. The First 50 artists committed to play Mile 8 will be announced tomorrow, Tuesday, as part of a follow-up release. The remainder of the artist and music education lineup will be released in the weeks that follow, with the detailed festival schedule of performances expected in mid-July.
One of the big adjustments for Mile 8 will be the shift of a significant amount of the music from indoor to outdoor. Whereas the average amount of outdoor music at the festival has been around 25 percent, the festival’s managing director, Mike Van Thull of WME, said this year’s event will be roughly split between outdoor and indoor venues. “Coming out of the pandemic, we feel this is the right modification for this year,” Van Thull said. “With more outside, we do become more susceptible to weather issues, but it’s intended as a one-year shift.” Another important tweak, Van Thull said, is that all four days of Mile 8 will always have live music sets available to see outside during the times when there is indoor music. Essentially, he said, the festival will start each day at the outside venues and both outdoor and indoor venues will end around the same time each night – at the 11 p.m. outdoor curfew time and between 11 and 11:30 p.m. for the indoor venues. “This way, attendees will always have the benefit of knowing they can attend music outdoors if they choose,” he said.
Three of The Mile’s Main Stages will be located at the largest of the outdoor spaces available in downtown: Jones Park, Washington Square and the parking lot at The Core, which will be hosted by Spats, and will allow for larger crowds to gather and allow for more personal space than the smaller parking lot adjacent to Spats. Mid-sized outdoor feature stages will again include Fox River House, Emmett’s, The Courtyard Stage at Red Lion Hotel Paper Valley, Riverside Bar & Grill, the D2 Patio, the Ormsby green space on the Lawrence campus, and McFleshman’s beer garden. Some traditional indoor venues will move outside or increase their footprint outside, including: Stone Arch, which will move from the Tap Room to their outdoor space; Rookies, which will move from their patio to the larger parking lot on the other side of their building; Mondo!, which will move to The Parklet between the 222 Building and Copper Rock; and a new outdoor stage behind Jim’s Place and Wooden Nickel as those two formerly indoor venues join forces and collaborate on an outside stage area. For this year only, Houdini Plaza will feature some of the festival’s top acoustic acts in a more relaxed festival setting. “Washington Square allows significantly more open room to distance for this year,” Van Thull said. Houdini Plaza will return to its role as a main stage in 2022, according to Van Thull.
A more subtle adjustment, but an important “safer songs” measure, will be to allow more time in between artist sets at Mile 8. Ian Thomson, who leads the considerable effort of booking the artists and scheduling the expansive festival, said the increase to 35 minutes in between each live set at all venues will allow artists to make less hectic and safer transitions from one performance to the next. The extra time also will allow a more paced merch selling process for the artists. “It won’t be quite the scramble this year and we won’t be asking artists to help each other transition on and off the stage like we have in the past,” Thomson said. “This will give the sound techs more time to focus on the incoming artist at each stage, which we think will prove to be safer and a better artist experience overall.”
Mile organizers, as part of their mitigation plan with the City of Appleton, have asked the indoor venues to modify their capacities slightly lower for Mile 8, just so indoor venues aren’t, as Willems put it, “quite so noses-to-noggins.” In addition, The Mile Team has asked the smallest of the host venues to sit this year’s festival out, with the expectation for these venues to return for Mile 9 in 2022. Additional protocols will be in place, too, such as using disposable microphone covers for the artists that will be discarded in between each act, positioning portable restrooms with more room in between, and placing more signage within the festival footprint to remind people to be mindful of personal space.
Though some of the logistics of staging such a large event under the current circumstances are challenging, Willems said the biggest challenge for Mile 8 will be financial. Since The Mile Team didn’t know for certain that holding a festival was going to be a likelihood until as little as two months ago, the scramble is on to find sponsors and other funders to help create as special of an event as possible. Several stages remain available to be sponsored and organizers also will be looking to gain continued support from individuals, couples and families who have helped fund the event through their Adopt-An-Artist underwriting and Music-Makers Subscriptions which, in a more typical year, allow for a number of perks and benefits in exchange for helpful individual sponsorship support.
Willems said Mile of Music will launch a 30-day public funding campaign on July 6 that will run through August 4 – Go The Extra Mile for The Mile – and will invite the public to send helpful sponsorship funding directly to support this year’s bounce-back festival. Within that campaign, supporters will be able to choose the funding level of their choice, which will include the option to be Adopt-an-Artist sponsors or Music-Makers subscribers – along with three new categories of support to be announced. “In this unpredictable, up-and-down year we’re in need of all the support we can get to sustain The Mile,” Willems said. “We’ve been able to make it happen for seven years through the existing sponsorship model, but now we’re going to need a little extra help. Some extra mile help, to be exact.”
Another way the public will be able to help make the music happen, Willems said, is while attending Mile 8, where text-to-support opportunities will be promoted for those who are enjoying the plethora of free music. “It’ll be completely optional, but we have heard from many people during the festival each year that they’d like to offer funding and this will be a key way for them to do just that while helping us to pay for the event this year,” he said.
Willems said more details about this year’s Music-Makers Subscriptions and Adopt-an-Artist opportunities will be released on June 30, along with the all-important volunteer portal. Mile of Music typically utilizes more than 400 volunteers throughout the four days of the festival. The portal will include a listing of volunteer opportunities and sign-up capability.