With nearly 50% of Wisconsinites fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and with local restrictions lifted, most consumers have gotten at least a taste of pre-pandemic life in recent months. Regardless of whether it’s about tailgating …

With almost 50% Of the Wisconsinites, who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and local restrictions lifted, most consumers have at least gotten a glimpse of what life was like before the pandemic in the past few months. Whether it’s at the Brewers game at American Family Field or inside a popular local eatery, people are going out and back together – and they are spending money on entertainment.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, consumers have been spending more per month since March than they did during the pandemic. Monthly consumer spending declined slightly in May, but spending on services continued to climb $ 74.3 billion. The increase was led by spending on leisure services, food and accommodation.

“The problem with economics isn’t demand,” said Jim McGibany, chairman of the economics department at Marquette University. “Especially from the consumer’s point of view, there is enough demand.”

In addition, the personal savings rate remains higher than before the pandemic.

“That means consumers still have the means to spend,” said McGibany.

The end of the federal government’s economic controls could be one reason spending slows this year, but even without that additional source of income, “it still looks like consumers are strong enough to keep the economy moving,” said he.

For many industries, supply chain disruptions stand in the way of taking full advantage of the sudden surge in business. For the entertainment and hospitality sectors, the persistent labor shortage is the main obstacle.

The Wisconsin State Fair is only weeks away from its return as one of the area’s first major festival events since the pandemic. The State Fair Park alone requires at least 1,800 seasonal workers to produce the 11-day fair, not to mention the additional manpower required by vendors and operators. At the end of June, the organization had not yet achieved its recruitment target.

“We’re shouting from the rooftops that we can’t do this without the help and the people who want to work,” said Kathleen O’Leary, chief executive officer of Wisconsin State Fair Park.

As an incentive, State Fair has increased its minimum hourly wage to $ 10. Earlier this month, it hosted the Summer Fair Job Fest with Summerfest preparing for a major undertaking of its own. The annual music festival takes place on three consecutive weekends in September this year, compared to the traditional 11-day format in late June and early July.

State Fair organizers are not hoping this year’s attendance will hit the 1 million mark (as it did in seven consecutive years before 2020), O’Leary said. Nonetheless, the event remains an important source of income for its 600+ food, beverage and commercial vendors and an economic impact on Southeast Wisconsin – especially after a devastating year.

The bars and restaurants in downtown Milwaukee have already felt the ripple effect of local entertainment on their recovery. The Milwaukee Bucks playoff run to the NBA final drew tens of thousands of fans to watch the games from the seats of the Fiserv Forum or outside on giant television screens in the public arena. The Deer District scene, with more than 20,000 screaming fans, made national headlines when Milwaukee was in the spotlight.

The increase in pedestrian traffic in the Deer District has been a boon to businesses like Drink Wisconsinbly Pub, one of the three bar-restaurants currently open along the Bucks entertainment block. June was the pub’s best month since opening in spring 2019, said Ryan Walther, co-owner of Wisconsinbly Holdings.

Many downtown facilities rely on traffic driven by entertainment at the Fiserv Forum and other venues. After the NBA playoffs, it’s important to keep the momentum going with the return of concerts, shows and theatrical productions, said Peggy Williams-Smith, President and CEO of VISIT Milwaukee.

“We need these shows so our restaurants and bars can keep the business level they are now,” she said. “They are critical to the tourism ecosystem. People come here from all over the state and also from Chicago to see shows because we have such great venues. “

Sixteen months after the pandemic broke out, some segments of the entertainment industry – including movie theaters, touring musicians, and the performing arts – are still preparing.

Across the country, 85% of the cinemas are back in operation. Milwaukee-based Marcus Theaters is still working to reopen the last of its 89 theater locations in 17 states.

After months of production delays in the studio, the film industry is facing an enormous surge in supply: by the end of the year, two to three new films are to be released almost every week. Rolando Rodriguez, CEO and President of Marcus Theaters, said the chain is ready to meet demand for both new movie content and an entertainment experience that has been withheld from consumers while they are stuck at home during the pandemic.

“We are people, we like to socialize and we want to be with people,” said Rodriguez. “There is no better way than enjoying a film, with the emotions that flow from a film – the laughter, the tears, the aha moments … to share this artistic experience.”