10 free summer festivals in 2018

These events are musts for outdoor family fun
10 free summer festivals in 2018
Photo by AtwoodFest Facebook

It wouldn’t be a true Madison summer without free local festivals. As many outdoor events feature music that rings throughout the city’s streets, vendors offering locally made food and artists selling beautiful work, there is plenty of fun for the whole family. Grab a friend and some sunscreen and check out these quintessential Madison events this summer.

Make Music Madison
The phrase “all the world’s a stage” becomes reality during Madison’s musical summer solstice celebration. Anyone and everyone is encouraged to join in the music-making, whether that be by attending one of several free workshops or performances throughout the day, or joining in a sing-along on a Lake Wingra dock with pals. Either way, all of Madison’s melodies will ring in the air. noon-5 p.m., June 21, various locations, click here for more info

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Shake the Lake
The entertainment lineup at Festival Foods’ annual party features many national musical acts on a couple stages. During the event, an aerialist will defy odds by hanging on silks from unbelievable heights, and David “The Bullet” Smith will shoot from a cannon into Lake Monona. The lake may in fact shake with rumbling fireworks lighting up the sky as a perfect ending to the evening’s activities. ​​​​​​5-11 p.m., June 23, John Nolen Drive, click here for more info

4th Annual Fourth Fest Saturday
What’s more American than munching on a foot-long hot dog while watching the Mad City Ski Team hit jumps on Lake Mendota to the tune of a live band? Celebrate the Fourth of July a few days early with entertainment for the whole family at Edgewater Hotels’s red, white and blue party. The event will have carnival games and classic American fare to celebrate the United States’ independence. 2-9 p.m., June 30, Edgewater Hotel, click here for more info

Monona Community Festival
You’ve probably heard of potato sack races and egg-balancing relays, but what about a wife-carrying championship? It’s just one of the many events featured at Monona’s annual community celebration, along with live music from Chameleon and The Jimmys, a fireworks show, “Taste of the 4th” food specials and kids water fights. July 3-4, 1055 Nichols Road, Monona, click here for more info

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Fête de Marquette
Fête is essentially a playground for the whole family. The bounce houses, climbing walls and face painting keep kids busy while parents sip beer and wine, look at local crafts and jam to music from three stages located in the eclectic eastside neighborhood. The fun doesn’t stop at the festival — proceeds go to maintaining other programs offered by Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center. 4-11 p.m., July 12-15, McPike Park, click here for more info

Art Fair Off the Square
At Art Fair Off the Square, more than 140 Wisconsin-based artists will break away from the larger Art Fair on the Square and take over nearby streets for two days. From painting to woodworking and jewelry to photography, art of all kinds from across the state will color downtown’s streets for a weekend. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on July 14, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on July 15, between the Capitol and Monona Terrace, click here for more info

Maxwell Street Days
Attention bargain shoppers! With sales so good they simply can’t stay inside, local businesses bring clothes, gifts, food, drinks and more onto sidewalks lining State Street and Capitol Square during Maxwell Street Days. Walk down the the Isthmus’ center for bargains and local goods you can’t miss. July 20-22, State Street, click here for more info

AtwoodFest
AtwoodFest brings Midwest-based artists to the east side neighborhood streets for family-friendly festival fun. For the kids, check out KidsFest, where Wil-Mar kiddos are welcomed to see kid-friendly performers throughout the two days. While the kids play, selections of locally brewed ales and a variety of performances let adults kick back. music starts at noon both days, July 28-29, Atwood Avenue, click here for more info

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Makeshift Festival
Each summer, Makeshift Festival highlights the natural beauty of different Madison parks with amazing food and visual art. Art created by artists from all around the Midwest focuses on relevant social topics, including sustainability. Embrace the festival’s mission of advocating for Madison’s parks system and its history throughout the event. 1-7 p.m., Aug. 12, Tenney Park Island, click here for more info

Orton Park Festival
In its 53rd year, the Orton Park Festival is the longest-running music festival in Madison, as well as one of the oldest outdoor music fests in the country. There are plenty of quirky festival activities, characteristic of the park’s east side location. Some notable festivities include the infamous auction, a trapeze act and an “elegant jazz brunch.” Aug. 23-26, 1103 Spaight St., click here for more info

Sammy Gibbons is an editorial intern at Madison Magazine.

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