Waterfest nears three decades of live entertainment

For the 29th consecutive year, Waterfest is rocking the Fox River in Oshkosh.

This year, the concert is characterized by a diverse lineup and a weekend show for the first time since 1992. Some of the first-time performers who add to the variety include: Blues Traveler, Uncle Kracker, The Kings, Sugar Ray, The Guilty Wanted and Miles Nielsen & The Rusted Hearts.

There is something for everyone this year, as Michael Dempsey assures. “Five community nights are also having two-for-one admission before 6 p.m. These include two June events, July 24 and 25 and Aug. 21,” says the president and entertainment chairman of Waterfest.

Sister Hazel, Gin Blossoms and Hairball headline each remaining two-for-one night, respectively. The cost of two-for-one admission is only $6 and the hope is to attract people who may not typically attend the event.
The highly anticipated Waterfest Weekend will run from July 24-26. Along with the two-for-one admission on Thursday and Friday, Saturday evening is expected to draw the largest crowd. The Kings and The Traveling Suitcase — considered the best up-and-coming band in the Fox Cities — will open for Ted Nugent. Gates open at 5 p.m. Those who wish to secure reserved patio access will need to purchase tickets in advance through the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce.

Waterfest has come a long way in its 29 years. Paul Sanchez, singer and guitar player for Paul Sanchez & Minimum Range, can attest to the growth of Waterfest and Oshkosh as a city.

“The first time I performed at Waterfest, it was on the back of a flatbed truck,” says Sanchez. “In the 15 years since then, I have seen a beautiful amphitheater built for Waterfest, as downtown Oshkosh has been rebuilt with coffee shops, restaurants and most importantly, young people with dreams of new art, music and commerce in Oshkosh.”

Sanchez is a large proponent of the Leach Amphitheater as a waterfront venue. “What keeps me coming back is the intimacy of the event. Oshkosh wants to show itself at its finest for Waterfest — the boats on the river pulled up to listen, the music fans, young and old, who pull up chairs or gather close to the stage for a favorite band.”

Bodeans crowd

A wine bar, specialty beer bar and the new River Walk extending from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh campus, are just a few of the amenities that come with the Waterfest experience. Brats, hamburgers and chicken sandwiches are the popular food choices, along with the variety of beverages provided by Waterfest.

With food, drink, live music and magnificent views on the mouth of the Fox River, the best Thursday night experience in the Fox Cities is at concert-goers’ fingertips. “It is everything wonderful about playing a music festival in a town that embraces the festival, the music and the moment,” says Sanchez.

For open gate times, general ticket prices and reserved patio information, visit

— By Reid Trier

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