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Break the winter blues with Mitten Fest

We’re in the “long haul” of the year. 

The holidays are over. The sun hates us and hides away. We’ll probably be cold until mid-May. If only there was something to look forward to…something to shatter the monotony and grayness of Wisconsin winters.

Well, we’re in luck. Burnhearts is hosting Mitten Fest in Bay View again this year! 

This Saturday, from noon to 8 pm, the block party will feature local bands, local food, local artists and specialty drinks. Mitten Fest gives people a reason to bundle up and get out.

This year’s bands: Midnight Reruns, Moon Curse, Queen Tut and The Whiskeybelles. Plus, Goodkind, Honeypie, Gypsy Taco and Valentine Coffee Roasters will provide the food and warm drinks. Artists will showcase their talents along the street.

Now in its fourth year, Mitten Fest aims to spark warmth and community with its winter gathering.

“Besides the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day, February has basically nothing exciting to

look forward to besides cold and snow,” said BJ Seidel, owner of Burnhearts. “We wanted to build an event that celebrates the cold and snow while helping to shake off some cabin fever.”

In the beginning, Seidel expected a small 500-person gathering and a one-time event. But the idea quickly took off. Last year, about 4,000 people came out. And the increase benefits those in need, because Burnhearts partners with Hunger Task Force to raise awareness and promote donations .

Last year, Mitten Fest collected three tons of food, 80 giant bags of gently worn winter clothes and around $4,500 in cash donations. Seidel hopes to match that this year, and it looks like he might: the event’s Facebook page says nearly 7,000 people are either interested or attending.

So, if you go…

If an extra pair of socks isn’t enough to keep you warm, grab a specialty drink to get your blood flowing. Central Waters, Korbel and Burnhearts have created four one-of-a-kind beverages for Mitten Fest.

It’s actually kind of a cool system — Burnhearts takes used bourbon barrels and fills them with Korbel and unique fixings to make their exclusive Brandyland Old Fashioned & Ginger Brandy Toddy. Once the barrels are empty, Central Waters takes the barrels, fills them with fresh beer and ages them until the next Mitten Fest.

“The beer you drink this year housed last year’s cocktail and this year’s cocktail will be next year’s beer. It’s like alcohol reincarnation,” says Seidel.

Your fill of arts and crafts

Also staying warm will be the handful of local vendors and artists who gather to showcase their work. Cortney Heimerl, organizer of Maker Market and Hover Craft and vendor coordinator for the NEWaukee Night Market, is curating the arts and crafts fair at Mitten Fest.

“I think at this time of year, people are ready to get outside again,” she says. “The Packers are done playing -- everyone is looking for something to do.

“Milwaukee and Bay View have a great community feeling that comes out more in the summer, but it doesn't mean people don't want to share in that sense of community in the winter too!”

The following artists and vendors will be featured, come snow or icy wind:

Milrawkee Alt.

Orchard Street Press

Deer Abby

Filthy Freehand + Dirty Dishes

Tippecanoe Herbs


Cream City Caramels

Talcon Quinn

Rad Art Glass

Clock Shadow Creamery

“This particular show takes a special kind of person to vend outside in the winter for eight hours. I always tell my vendors to prepare for Mitten Fest like you would if you were going to Lambeau Field -- dress warm and prepare to be outside all day!” says Heimerl.

There you go, Milwaukee! Your plans for this weekend. Support local artists and donate to charity while filling your ears with great music and your stomach with great food.

Don’t forget your non-perishables, gently worn winter cloths and cash donations for Hunger Task Force. Stay warm, drink responsibly and respect your neighbors!