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Boat parade assembles in Milwaukee's inner harbor

Scenes from Milwaukee’s Three-in-One Festival!

11:44 am  |  Topics: Events


By Eddee Daniel

Once again Milwaukee Riverkeeper, the Harbor District Inc., and Riveredge Nature Center have teamed up to bring a unique three-in-One festival to the city of festivals: Harbor Fest, Sturgeon Fest, and the sixth annual Boat Parade. On top of all that, the event coincided with Historic Milwaukee’s annual Doors Open extravaganza, which meant that visitors to the Triple-Fest could also enter and tour the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences on one side and the brand-new Komatsu Mining Corp. headquarters and manufacturing facility.

Harbor Fest bustles along the east end of Greenfield Avenue between Komatsu (left) and the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences (right).
Harbor Fest bustles along the east end of Greenfield Avenue between Komatsu (left) and the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences (right).

Harbor Fest celebrates the Milwaukee’s harbor, of course—I have it on good authority that it is the best harbor on the western shore of Lake Michigan and the reason Milwaukee was settled by Europeans. But it also celebrates the Harbor District, which has been booming with new development, revitalization, and restoration initiatives.

The Boat Parade features local artists and performers who created one-of-a-kind art installations that float. The boats promenaded along the waterfront at Harbor View Plaza where visitors could get a good view of them before parading up the Milwaukee River to Lakefront Brewery and back. There is a serious purpose behind the good, clean fun of the parade, which is to celebrate and honor the waterways that made Milwaukee what it is. This year’s theme was “Clean Water in the Cream City” in order to honor the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act

Sturgeon Fest, aka Return the Sturgeon, celebrates and furthers an ambitious effort to restore a sustainable population of this remarkable and ancient fish to the Milwaukee River watershed. Visitors who have preregistered and paid $15 to do so line up to have close personal time with a baby sturgeon (aka a fingerling) before placing it into the water where it will, if all goes well, grow up to be a behemoth. The success of the effort was proved last year when the first adult sturgeon, measuring around 4-ft-long, tagged with the Riveredge tag was caught in the Milwaukee River (Story by Paul Smith in Mke Journal Sentinel).

Enjoy these scenes from the day!

The Milwaukee Riverkeeper boat leads the Boat Parade past Harbor View Plaza where visitors line the waterfront for viewing.
The Milwaukee Riverkeeper boat leads the Boat Parade past Harbor View Plaza where visitors line the waterfront for viewing.
A boat decorated to resemble an enormous turtle. But look closely, there's more: The turtle also is a Native American symbol for planet Earth known as Turtle Island.
A boat decorated to resemble an enormous turtle. But look closely, there’s more: The turtle also is a Native American symbol for planet Earth known as Turtle Island.
Fishing rods were available to Fest-goers courtesy the Fish and Wildlife Service, seen here in clear view of the Viking Cruise line ship getting ready to set out on the Great Lakes.
Fishing rods were available to Fest-goers courtesy the Fish and Wildlife Service, seen here in clear view of the Viking Cruise line ship getting ready to set out on the Great Lakes.
A rain garden at the end of the UWM property, next to Harbor View Plaza (background) helps keep stormwater from entering the harbor waters and Lake Michigan.
A rain garden at the end of the UWM property, next to Harbor View Plaza (background) helps keep stormwater from entering the harbor waters and Lake Michigan.
There were fun activities for all ages, including this climbing wall.
There were fun activities for all ages, including this climbing wall.
A gargantuan display of mining equipment greets visitors to the Komatsu headquarters.
A gargantuan display of mining equipment greets visitors to the Komatsu headquarters.
Sturgeon Fest allows pre-registered visitors to release a baby (fingerling) sturgeon into the waters of the harbor and Lake Michigan.
Sturgeon Fest allows pre-registered visitors to release a baby (fingerling) sturgeon into the waters of the harbor and Lake Michigan.
The experience is often a communal affair with lots of cell phone documentation.
The experience is often a communal affair with lots of cell phone documentation.
Some people, however, prefer to have a more solitary, intimate relationship with their sturgeon, sometimes giving them names and blessing them as they disappear into the deep.
I joined in the fun. Here is my baby, who I named Sebastian after the crab in The Little Mermaid.

Related stories:

Sturgeon Fest (2018)

Sturgeon Fest: A child’s perspective (2019)

Annual Milwaukee Riverkeeper Boat Parade rocks Milwaukee River (2020)

Learn more about all of these organizations and efforts:

The Harbor District Inc.

Milwaukee Riverkeeper

Riveredge Nature Center: Return the Sturgeon

Historic Milwaukee, Inc.

Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks, a former board member of Milwaukee Riverkeeper, and a former Artist in Residence for the Harbor District, Inc. Milwaukee Riverkeeper and Riveredge Nature Center are project partners of A Wealth of Nature.