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Sturgeon Fest joins Harbor Fest – September 19!

September 2, 2021  |  Topics: Events

By Ed Makowski

It’s time to celebrate the return of Milwaukee’s rivers with three organizations committed to their restoration! On Sunday, September 19, Harbor District’s annual street festival Harbor Fest will expand, combining the celebration of Milwaukee’s harbor with the Milwaukee Riverkeeper Boat Parade and the annual Sturgeon Fest organized by Riveredge Nature Center.

Sturgeon releasing is a family affair (Sturgeon Fest 2018)

Harbor Fest celebrates all things fish, water, and boats. Attendees can expect food and drink, hand-release a sturgeon into the water, enjoy live music by Caché, see and purchase local art, dip hands in a fish petting zoo, watch the Milwaukee Riverkeeper Boat Parade, learn how to clean a fish, shop from local makers, and learn about Milwaukee’s Harbor District businesses.

Harbor Fest 2020. Image courtesy Milwaukee Riverkeeper

Sunday, September 19 Schedule of Events

11:00am Harbor Fest and Sturgeon Fest Begin

12:00pm Sturgeon Blessing and fish release begins at Harbor View Plaza

12:30pm Milwaukee Boat Parade begins at Harbor View Plaza

2:00pm Sturgeon release complete

4:00pm Harbor Fest completes

The Milwaukee Riverkeeper Boat Parade is a twist on the traditional holiday parade because it features floats that actually float! Local artists, groups and performers are commissioned to create installations celebrating the return of Milwaukee’s rivers. Watch it LIVE from Harbor Fest, or find a spot anywhere along the Riverwalk to take in this unique sight. A route map is available on the Milwaukee Riverkeeper website.

Milwaukee Riverkeeper Boat Parade 2020

This year, Harbor Fest attendees will have the opportunity to release a Lake Sturgeon as a part of the 15th year of the Return the Sturgeon Program. Event attendees can pre-register to hand-release Lake Sturgeon into the water, or donate the opportunity for others to have the experience of releasing a fish. Sturgeon Fest has previously taken place at Lakeshore State Park and for 2021 Riveredge is embarking on a new collaboration with Harbor Fest.

Hand releasing a baby fish (fingerling) is a highlight of Sturgeon Fest. (2018)

The Return the Sturgeon program is a collaboration between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Riveredge Nature Center. Since the mid-1800’s, Lake Sturgeon populations throughout the Great Lakes have been decimated because of overfishing, collection of their eggs as caviar, and dams blocking their ability to return to spawning habitat (lake sturgeon will only spawn in the river in which they were born). The Return the Sturgeon restoration effort imprints a new population of Lake Sturgeon on Milwaukee River water. This effort reclaims the habitat range of this prehistoric fish species and returns a spawning sturgeon population to the Milwaukee River for the first time in more than 100 years.

As Milwaukee Riverkeeper heralds the resurgent return of Milwaukee’s rivers, Milwaukee also welcomes the return of lake sturgeon to our rivers.

Harbor Fest takes place outside of the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences at 600 E. Greenfield Ave. Greenfield Avenue will be closed at Barclay Street to make way for the festival and pedestrian traffic. Attendees are encouraged to ride bikes to the event. An event schedule and map, including the location of free event parking hosted by Rockwell Automation, will be available leading up to the festival at Harbor Fest – Milwaukee.

Ed Makowski is Marketing and Communications Manager for Riveredge Nature Center. All images by Eddee Daniel except as noted. The featured image at the top of the three logos is courtesy Milwaukee Riverkeeper. Eddee Daniel has served as Artist in Residence for Harbor District, Inc. and on the board of Milwaukee Riverkeeper. Riveredge Nature Center and Milwaukee Riverkeeper are project partners of A Wealth of Nature.