Sturgeon Fest 2015

It’s our 10th Anniversary!

Join Riveredge Nature Center on Sept. 26th, 2015 at Lakeshore State Park, in downtown Milwaukee, to celebrate the release of over 1,200 young Lake Sturgeons at the free, family festival – Sturgeon Fest!

The festival includes:

  • Activities for kids of all ages…Scavenger hunt!
  • Booths from many of local environmental organizations
  • Local food trucks
  • And, of course, the baby sturgeon release!  For a modest donation to the Return the Sturgeon Restoration Project,  children, families, and adults participate in citizen science at its best by ‘sponsoring’ a baby sturgeon and hand-releasing it into Lake Michigan.
  • Sturgeon Sponsors receive a certificate, magnet, and an opportunity to register one of the sturgeon – all the sturgeon are tagged (similar to how pets are micro chipped).  If a sturgeon is every captured with your tag number, you’ll be notified!
  • In honor of this ancient fish, Dr. Scott Sampson will join us for our 10th anniversary and perform a FREE show on the Summerfest grounds following the Sturgeon release. Dr. Sampson is dinosaur paleontologist at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, best known as “Dr. Scott,” host and science advisor of the Emmy‐nominated PBS KIDS series Dinosaur Train, produced by the Jim Henson Company.
  • FREE Parking available. Driving Directions to FREE parking.

For a modest donation to the Return the Sturgeon Restoration Project, children, families, and adults participate in citizen science at its best by ‘sponsoring’ a baby sturgeon and hand-releasing it into Lake Michigan.

Sturgeon Sponsors receive a certificate, magnet, and an opportunity to register one of the microchipped sturgeon to track throughout its life!

There are a limited amount of sturgeon to sponsor, so it is recommended to pre-register to sponsor your fish. Registration closes at 2 PM on Friday, September 25th, but don’t worry, you can still sponsor a fish at the event.

2015 Sturgeon Fest Schedule

Saturday, September 26th 11am – 3pm


11 – 3 pm – Food available for purchase by local vendors

11 – 3 pm – Children’s activities, live reptile and amphibian exhibit, Sturgeon Project partners and info exhibits, kayak demonstrations by Milwaukee Kayak Company LLC  and more!

11:30 – 12:00 pm – Opening Remarks & First Sturgeon Release

12:00 – 2 pm – Public Sturgeon Release (times are approximate).  There are a limited amount of sturgeon to sponsor, it is recommended to pre-register to sponsor your fish.

Sponsor a sturgeon with a $10 donation and release a fish at Sturgeon Fest! Online registration now available.

1 pm and 1:45 pm – Tour of the prairies by Tom Kroeger of Lakeshore State Park (meet at the giant sturgeon photo-op, each tour is approximately 30 minutes)

2:00 – 3:00 pm – Dr. Scott Presentation at the Johnson Controls World Stage on the Summerfest Grounds (FREE for everyone!)

3:00 pm – Dr. Scott book signing event

Tips & Tricks for 1st Timers

  • FREE parking is available at designated Summerfest parking lots – watch for the signs to get you to the right spot. A shuttle to the park will be available. Download Directions to FREE parking
  • The festival is open from 11 am – 3 pm.
  • Although the festival continues until 3:00 pm, fish are typically all released by 2:30 pm.
  • All educational activities for kids and adults (including the bouncy house obstacle course) are FREE thanks to our great sponsors! There is no entrance fee to Sturgeon Fest.
  • Bad weather typically does not cancel Sturgeon Fest – the little fishies need to be set free! – but severe weather may.  Watch our FB page and this website for any updates.
  • You may sponsor a sturgeon for release ($10 suggested donation) at the park near the docks or you can do so online before you arrive (we encourage people to sponsor a sturgeon online – it’s way easier that way)
  • Sturgeon release begins after a 20 minute ceremony at 11:30 AM honoring the sturgeon rearing efforts.  This time also includes a ceremonial blessing of the fish by a Native American representative.
  • Lots of people release between 12:30 – 1:30.  If crowds are not your thing, reserve your fish ahead of time and then release at your leisure from 1:30 – 2:30 pm.
  • The Dr. Scott family presentation will take place at the Johnson World Control Stage in the Summerfest grounds.  You can easily walk there from Lakeshore State Park.  He will begin at 2 pm.  The meet and greet will Dr. Scott will be at 3 pm following his presentation.
  • Don’t forget to stop by the tent near the release site to pick up your certificate and thank you gift!
  • Food is available for purchase from the local food trucks – we have several coming this year!


Have a Sturgeonfest certificate from past years? Register your sturgeon here!

Dr. Scott of Dinosaur Train 2pm at World Sound Stage

dr scott

Presenting Sponsor


Lake Michigan Sponsor


Milwaukee River Sponsor


Stream Sponsor

noaa_c high res

Media Sponsors


Sponsors of the Return the Sturgeon Restoration Project

valley hydro

Why Sturgeon?

In the early 1800s an estimated 2-million lake sturgeons roamed the floor of Lake Michigan. A relic from the dinosaur age, roughly 20-million years old, sturgeon are the oldest and largest species of fish in the great lakes. But in less than 200 years, human influence caused the sturgeon population in Lake Michigan to plummet.  Less than 2,000 sturgeons are estimated to be left in the lake today. Once a spawning site for the fish, the Milwaukee River hasn’t seen lake sturgeon in over 100 years.

‘Return of the Sturgeon Project’

The goal of this 25-year program is to reestablish a breeding population of lake sturgeon in the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan.  For the past 9 years, as a collaborative project with the WI DNR, Riveredge has been rearing sturgeon from April – September. Sturgeon eggs are collected from the Wolf River each spring and then raised in a streamside rearing facility all summer long.  An all-volunteer team, trained and supported by Riveredge, raises approximately 1,200 yearlings each year. Over the next 20 years, scientists believe that we will once again see a reproducing population of lake sturgeon in the Milwaukee River for the first time since the late 1800’s.