Thursday, February 9, 2012

From Warren Avenue to Brady Street

Several of us young merchants had attended the block party on Warren Avenue that was organized by the YIPPIE's. We saw the crowds and the excitement that formed that day and decided to have a festival on Brady Street. Being young and new to the street, we needed to enlist the older merchants to make this successful. An ally was found in Joe Glorioso from the Glorioso's Brothers Italian Delicatessen. Joe saw the potential for promoting Brady Street and with his blessing we set out to create an event. A local man named Bert Stitt, who was active in the community, signed on to organize this event. Meetings among the merchants were held and ideas were exchanged. We decided on a festival that would include arts, crafts, a flea market, food and beverage. A music venue was not included as we felt that the music would not attract the clientele we were interested in having in our community. Plus Summerfest was taking shape on the lakefront and we needed the alderman and the mayor to okay the necessary street permit. I remember being in Mayor Maier's office at city hall as we delivered our sales pitch. The mayor looked at us as competition to the fledgling Summerfest and even asked if we would consider holding our festival at the lakefront grounds. We stood firm as we knew the alderman had already given their blessing so with some trepidation, the mayor signed off on our festival. With permits in hand the work began.

Picture of Me and Joe Glorioso - 1969
The city of Milwaukee had never seen a festival like the Brady Street Festivals of the 1970's. As merchants we were able to pool some resources, advertise for artist, craftsman and flea market vendors. Food and beverage would be supplied by the local taverns and restaurants. The Eagle Scouts were enlisted to maintain the barricaded intersection. As dawn broke on that first festival morning, a line of cars and vans were allowed onto the street. Displays were set up, merchandise was arranged and hopes ran high that the festival would be successful. What fears we had were never to materialize. As the sun rose in the east, a crowd of festival goers arrived on the street. The party lasted all day until the sun set in the west. An event had just taken place that to this very day, still remains as one of the most exciting and well attended street events Milwaukee ever encountered.

A Montage of Posters Used to Promote The Brady Street Festivals - 1968 to 1978

The Brady Street Festival of the 1970's endured for many years and finally in 1978, we saw the last festival of that era. Over those eight years, each festival became bigger and bigger. The impact on the neighborhood was taking it's toll. Residents were very unhappy with being held almost captive by the size and scale of this event. Merchants like myself were thrilled with the monetary benefits but in 1978 the festival ended. The alderwoman in 1978 was Sandra Lyon-Hoeh and she was comfortable with the festival, even though her office was taking the heat from the neighbors who were adversely affected by the festival. She told me that as long as I remained on Brady Street, she would consider allowing us to hold the festival. The winds of change were in the air. My once thriving leather business was slowing down, the street was adrift and competition from other retail areas was pressuring us all. 

It was time for a change.

Here's a picture taken by George Lottermoser of the last Brady Street Festival in 1978.
The view is looking west and the camera was used on the top of the apartment
on the corner of Brady and Prospect.

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