Former Summerfest director Elizabeth “Bo” Black dies


Elizabeth “Bo” Black, the flamboyant former director of Summerfest, has died at the age of 74.Black was the boss of the music festival for 19 years, starting in 1984, growing “The Big Gig” into “The World’s Largest Music Festival.”She also made numerous appearances on WISN 12 News promoting the music festival and other happenings around Milwaukee.She could get people to move mountains. A media blitz made the Marcus Amphitheater happen on time. And she didn’t hesitate to run roughshod to get the job done her way.”I really don’t have time to argue with people and fight with people and I never did like that part of life,” Black told WISN 12 News’ Kathy Mykleby years ago.”I have been involved in some big brawls. I never mope around anymore. I’ve mellowed out a lot.”Born in St. Louis, UW-Madison drew Black to Wisconsin. In college, a Playboy cover put her in the spotlight. She was an assistant to Milwaukee’s Mayor Henry Maier, and got the Summerfest job in 1984.The board voted her out in 2003.She spent her last years in Arizona with her husband of almost 20 years, former Brewers manager Tom Trebelhorn. She suffered several serious health problems in recent years. She was in hospice care when she died Friday morning near her home.But she came back to Summerfest on opening day in 2011, saying, “Everybody thanked me so much. I’m so honored that they remember me. I’m so old and they’re still thanking me. I’m proud of the volunteers I started. I’m proud of the jobs that are created here. The ethnic festivals touched my heart so deeply.”Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett released a statement: “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.”Summerfest organizers also released a statement: “Today our Summerfest family is mourning the loss of Elizabeth ‘Bo’ Black. Well-known throughout Milwaukee and beyond, Bo served as Executive Director of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. for almost two decades. Under her leadership, Summerfest experienced expansive growth, earning the distinction of ‘The World’s Largest Music Festival.’ 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…

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