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QWERTYFEST MKE: Not your typ(e)ical Milwaukee festival


With all of the festivals that happen around the Milwaukee area every year, there’s nothing quite like QWERTYFEST. The annual event takes live performances and programming, throws in a couple parties and lays it all on top of a foundation of historical significance. That unique combo is back again this coming weekend, June 21-23.

Spearheaded in part by OnMilwaukee senior writer Molly Snyder, QWERTYFEST will find its way to several venues throughout the city during its three-day run, starting at 5 p.m. Friday with the Typewriter Ball at Turner Hall. The lineup for that kickoff alone manages to encapsulate the festival’s offbeat but attention-grabbing nature:

  • 5 p.m. — DJ Swing Shift
  • 6:15 p.m. — The Quick Brown Fox Typing Contest
  • 6:30 p.m. — Wendy Markus presents: Measures of Escapement
  • 7 p.m. — The Clackathon
  • 8:30 p.m. — Boston Typewriter Orchestra

The Typewriter Ball will also feature a dozen vendors, with activity areas that include the DarkFusion Systems Gaming Lounge, OnMilwaukee Typing Stations, a Splendid Mailbox mailing station and the QWERTYFEST Typewriter Silent Auction.

Not to get you too excited, but the Gaming Lounge will include a playable version of the original grade-school classic The Oregon Trail. Will you die of dysentery or shoot a 600-pound bear but only be able to carry 100 pounds of meat back to the wagon? Almost certainly.

Of course, there’s tons more beyond reigniting your love for Apple IIe gaming. Saturday’s schedule includes presentations and workshops at Charles Allis Art Museum, plus the Whisky Type Party at Great Lakes Distillery, while Sunday is jam packed with everything from a Typewriter Brunch Open Jam at X-Ray Arcade to The QWERTY Journey Tour of Forest Home Cemetery.

We somewhat buried the lede here in that the entire festival celebrates Milwaukee’s distinction as birthplace of the typewriter and its QWERTY keyboard configuration. Newspaper editor and printer Christopher Latham Sholes was the driving force on both fronts, getting help from Carlos Glidden, Samuel W. Soule and Matthias Schwalbach to perfect the device in 1869.

Your chance to celebrate their good work is this weekend at the festival’s many events, tickets for which are available on the QWERTYFEST MKE website, along with full details for each day’s goings-on.

By Copyright © 2005 Sulfur - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0