'She will be long-remembered:' Summerfest icon Elizabeth 'Bo' Black passes away

MILWAUKEE -- Elizabeth "Bo" Black, the executive director of Milwaukee World Festival Inc. for nearly two decades, passed away on Friday, July 24, a Summerfest spokesperson said.

Black, well-known throughout Milwaukee, helped grow Summerfest into the event that holds the distinction -- The World's Largest Music Festival.

Statement from Summerfest

"Bo was truly dedicated to establishing Milwaukee as the City of Festivals during her tenure and worked tirelessly with various ethnic festivals and other charitable causes, helping to ensure their success.  She also championed “Operation Summer Chance”, a youth employment program which aimed to provide Milwaukee’s young people a job experience at Henry Maier Festival Park.  We continue her legacy today and are proud to offer employment opportunities to thousands in our community on an annual basis.

"We can uniquely appreciate the ways in which Bo left her mark on Summerfest, the festivals, Henry Maier Festival Park and Milwaukee.  She was a force. We are all grateful for her efforts, creativity and flair, which help make Summerfest the incredible experience it is today.  On behalf of everyone at Summerfest past and present, we send our heartfelt condolences to Bo’s friends and family.”

Statement from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

“Bo Black was a huge part of Milwaukee for many years. In the entire history of Summerfest, no one name is more associated with the annual event than Bo Black.

“She brought enthusiasm and glamour to her position as the head of Milwaukee World Festivals, and she was also a demanding leader who set Summerfest and ethnic festivals on a course for ongoing success.

“Bo Black was truly a Milwaukee celebrity. She will be long-remembered for her impact on our city.”

Statement from Sen. Alberta Darling:

“Bo Black was a Milwaukee legend who helped turn Summerfest into a national event. She also was a kind friend who cared about her community and those around her.


I was lucky enough to call Bo a friend for many years. I will be forever grateful for her friendship, her laugh, and her wisdom.

Rest in peace, Bo. You made the Big Gig and now you head to the Biggest Gig there is. I will miss you. Your family is in my prayers.”