Summerfest to provide rapid COVID testing at entrance for those without proof of vaccine, negative test

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The return of Summerfest Thursday, Sept. 2, comes with changes.

Summerfest said to enter, you will need proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from the last 72 hours. Those can be presented in physical form or on your phone.

Summerfest announced you can also take a rapid test upon entry. Rapid testing will be available on-site at both the North and South entrance gates. The cost is $25 per test. Tickets for the Rapid COVID-19 on site test can be purchased at the ticket windows at the North and South Gate of Henry Maier Festival Park.

Kicking off Wednesday, thousands of fans came out to see Weezer, Green Day, and Fall Out Boy ahead of the slightly different Summerfest.

Michael Bachman said he's had tickets to see these bands for a while and is happy to finally be able to see them.

"I was really disappointed [about all the times they had to cancel] but it's definitely worth the wait to be here in line and see my favorite bands," said Bachman.

Changes to the festival also include going cashless and requiring masks for children ages 2-11, but after 16 months off, they are just glad to be back.

"The last time we operated was in June of 2019, so we've got a little rust on us, but we're all very excited to get this going this evening," Summerfest President Don Smiley said.

Smiley said while this year is about rebuilding after last year's cancellation due to COVID-19, it isn't a quick process.

"We lost 99% of our revenue last year, I mean you just don't make that up in one year. So we know that we're here for a long haul," said Smiley.

Part of that is the new amenities on the grounds, like the finished American Family Amphitheater, an updated stage for headliners sponsored by Generac and more.

There will be designated sanitation crews this year.

"We've really taken a lot of effort to invest in the technology here," Generac CEO Aaron Jagdfeld said. "So the lighting, the sound systems, we've got the new LED boards in front and behind here."

If you opt for a rapid test instead of providing proof of vaccination or a negative test, Summerfest recommends giving yourself a little extra time.

"My advice would be to come early, in any case. Just come early," Smiley said. "Avoid the lines at six and seven o'clock at night. We made a big effort to hire national bands and put them up during the day."

Fans like Josue Velazquez said the requirement for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test is a big plus.

"I'm excited to get out there, I'm glad that they put the [requirements in place]. It's a little more comforting because my son's high risk," said Velazquez.

So people like Velazquez's son, Adam Nehring, can be safer going and seeing their favorite bands.

"Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Weezer, I'm just excited for the whole thing, super pumped," said Nehring.

Business owners are also happy to see things starting back up again.

"We have concerts over and over and over on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday [on] Summerfest grounds," said Riverfront Pizza Owner Arturo Napoales.

He said it’s good to see concert and festival foot traffic again.

"I mean it's amazing, it's really, really good to start feeling a little more normal," said Napoales.

Summerfest is only operating nine days, as opposed to their normal 11. They believe that gives them more top-end talent per day.

"To be able to do some more national names that we wouldn't have been able to do in the past, it's been fun for us," Summerfest Associate Booking Director Scott Zeal said. "So there's more to see, more to hear."

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