Ogres, onions and optimism: Shrekfest brings fairytale fun to Milwaukee

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A fairytale swamp came to life Saturday, Sept. 3 at Humboldt Park.

More than a thousand people of all ages sported green costumes for a unique gathering - Shrekfest.

The festival is an all-afternoon event honoring the 2001 animated film, Shrek.

What started as a joke eight years ago has turned into a major celebration of Shrek culture.

Shrekfest started in 2014 as a fake Facebook event in Madison.

"We were excited to go and we found out it was fake, so we had no choice but to make it real," said Shrekfest director, Grant Duffrin.

Duffrin and his group of friends made Shrekfest a real, annual event in Madison, moving to Milwaukee this year to spread the love of all things Shrek.

"People are genuinely having a good time. So it starts as this joke that becomes a genuine, sweet, real-hearted wholesome thing," said co-director, Kevin Gonring.

What was once a small idea is now a big event, with activities like face painting, live music and a fairytale dungeon, all leading up to the crowd favorite - an onion eating contest.

The night ended with a screening of the 2001 film at Humboldt Park.

The gathering brought out the most dedicated fans, like James Hearst from Michigan, who has been dressing up as Shrek since 2008.

"I was Shrek before Shrek was cool," Hearst said. "Everybody loves Shrek. Shrek loves everybody."

It's unclear why Shrek has become a cultural phenomenon, especially in millennial and gen-Z circles.

The Shrekfest director thinks the answer is simple.

"It's just a really good movie," Duffrin said.

The creators hope to bring the event back to Milwaukee next year.

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