Summerfest Entertainment VP Bob Babisch to transition roles with festival

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The man who brought some of the world's biggest artists to Milwaukee is taking a step back from his role.

Summerfest announced Thursday, March 3, that Bob Babisch, vice president of entertainment, will begin to transition his role as leader of the organization’s entertainment department at the end of 2022.

"It's time. It's time to enjoy life a little bit more," Babisch told CBS 58.

Babisch has been with Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. (MWF) for 46 years, starting in 1976, and has served in his current role for over four decades.

"I just realized that I'm over 70 now. I've reached that time when I want to just go out and enjoy life a little bit more, and you can't work forever -- you can't. It's time to move on," Babisch said.

According to a news release from MWF, Scott Ziel -- current associate booking director -- will become director of entertainment, taking on additional responsibilities for Summerfest and other events produced by MWF.

"I've been lucky enough to be in a position with Bob to learn from him. He's been my mentor," Ziel said. "He's booked some of the most iconic artists that the festival has presented in the last ten years. I've been fortunate enough to be in the room when he was negotiating with the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney." 

Following the 2022 season, Babisch will take on an ongoing consulting role with MWF.

"He knows kind of a lot of the secrets, but as he'll tell you, it's persistence. It's sell your event, making sure that people know you’re the best event out there. You're the best place for them to play," Babisch said.

During his tenure with the festival, Babisch has led the entertainment team at MWF, overseeing booking and production for all concerts during Summerfest, in addition to shows held at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater and BMO Harris Pavilion outside of the festival. He also has booked countless events for other venues in and outside of Wisconsin. Over the years, Babisch has also cultivated close working relationships with all major talent agencies and management firms in the music industry.

“Bob has an unmatched legacy that has helped shape not only Summerfest, but the music industry, during his illustrious career,” Don Smiley, president and CEO of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., said. “In the months to come, he will provide exceptional support for his team as we begin this transition to new leadership. On a personal note, I will miss seeing Bob on a day-to-day basis in 2023, but we both look forward to rocking and rolling in 2022.”

“It has truly been a dream job, I can’t believe I’ve been here for 46 years,” Babisch said. "Looking back, it’s the connection of live music and the fans that has inspired me for all these years. I am excited to continue to work with Scott and bring that connection to the next generation of music fans.”

Ziel has worked closely with Babisch on the booking and production of Summerfest for over 25 years. Ziel began with MWF as a member of the seasonal production team in 1992, became consultant in 1995, and later joined the team as associate booking director in 2015. Since that time, Ziel has taken on increasing responsibilities, including booking stages for Summerfest, the American Family Insurance Amphitheater, and representing the festival at industry conventions.

“I am excited to continue our tradition of presenting the world’s top talent as well as our strategy of offering an eclectic Summerfest line-up,” said Ziel. “We have an excellent booking and production team, which will continue to elevate the live music experience for artists and fans alike.”

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