"We've got a lot going on," said Melanie Gautreau, the hotel's director of community events and strategic partnerships.
Brewgrass Friday Nights, which started in 2016, is back after a two-year hiatus, running every Friday night until Aug. 26, with fish fries available in the Icehouse, an upscale concession-type food service in the hotel's plaza area.
On its first Friday, June 10, with musician Charlie Parr, the hotel sold close to 200 fish fries. "We kept our crew very busy," Gautreau said, noting that Parr has performed every year for the bluegrass series and is a fan favorite. "We really wanted to kick the series off, bringing him back again to The Edgewater."
Gautreau said Brewgrass, a partnership with Door County Brewing Company, and other events aren't solely an effort to get people to buy food and drinks, and bring business to the bars and Icehouse, the nearby Boathouse, and the Statehouse inside the hotel.
"It's more to activate the Plaza, which is a public space," she said. "The programming that we've planned is an attempt to get people down to the waterfront and just activate the public space. It's an incredible spot with beautiful views of Lake Mendota."
All of the programming is free and open to the public, and offering food and beverages allows people to have dinner and make a night of it, Gautreau said.
"It's certainly not required that anybody purchase anything, but we do have it there for folks who would like casual, concession-style food, casual lakeside dining at the Boathouse, and then the Statehouse is a little bit nicer for folks who want to have a sit-down meal."
Gautreau said she wasn't sure of the capacity of the Grand Plaza and no one counts visitors, but she said the first Brewgrass concert drew about 1,000 people.
The hotel's Fourth of July festival can bring in 3,000 to 5,000 people, she said. "It's hard to define, because there's the Plaza itself, and then there's all kinds of areas around the Plaza. Those spaces all get taken up during our big events."
The Edgewater, 1001 Wisconsin Place, near Capitol Square, opened in 1948 and has hosted guests including Elvis Presley, Elton John, Bob Hope and the Dalai Lama. The hotel underwent a $100 million renovation and reopened in the fall of 2014.
It has been hosting Fourth of July festivities since 2015, with 2020 and 2021 scratched due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fourth of July festival, from 2 to 8 p.m., will feature three bands -- Summer Breeze, Honor Among Thieves and The People Brothers Band -- along with activities for families, including face painting, balloon art, lawn games, crafts, plus cotton candy and snow cones.
"A lot of things are closed on that day, so we always find that there are a lot of people looking for things to do," Gautreau said.
Brewgrass nights have always gone from the second weekend in June to the last weekend in August, but the movie schedule has expanded with the hotel upgrading from an inflatable screen to a 12-foot-by-7-foot media wall that allows for earlier start times.
This summer, The Edgewater has expanded its movie offerings with a double feature every Thursday night, starting with child-friendly movies at 5:30 p.m., followed by more adult-oriented films at 7:30 p.m. For example, on July 7, it's the 2013 Disney movie “Planes” first, followed by “Top Gun."
"Another plane movie, but just geared for a little bit older audience," Gautreau said.
In the past, movies didn't start until it got dark at 8:30 or 9 p.m. With the technology of the media wall, she said, what's on the screen is visible during the daylight.
For the first time, The Edgewater is offering Brewers game watch parties every Tuesday until Aug. 23, with the games on the video wall, and beer, brats and hot dogs for sale.
Outdoor game nights are held on Wednesdays with offerings such as Connect Four, chess, checkers, tic tac toe and Jenga, and music. Visitors are also invited to bring a deck of cards.
The Edgewater has 40 slips for boats, so some people access Plaza events from the lake.
In 2017, the Edgewater had noise complaints from neighbors, but Gautreau said that issue has been alleviated by an enclosed stage structure put up for live music, which helps to control the sound.
She said the sound also is monitored at the street level to make sure that it doesn't go above a set decibel level.
Live music events are only on Fridays and for festivals, and always end by 9 p.m. Plus, she said, bluegrass music doesn't tend to be as loud as, say, rock music.
"All of those things have made it really smooth," Gautreau said.
Art of the Everyday: A recap of May in photos from Wisconsin State Journal photographers
Wisconsin State Journal feature writer Samara Kalk Derby writes about the arts and brings you the latest news on the Madison area's eclectic restaurant scene. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-252-6439.