Eugene Kane (along with many others, I'm sure) is calling Summerfest's attendance numbers disappointing.
I actually haven't seen Don Smiley's response to these figures since the fest (well, because I'm not looking), but I do recall him stating in a radio interview before the festival that one million attendees was a magic number he wasn't too concerned with achieving. Stating that his focus was more on quality than quantity, he even said the goal was closer to somewhere between 800,000 and 900,000.
I've long thought that one of the drawbacks of Summerfest, and one of the reasons I haven't attended for many years, is that they try to get too many people into too small a space. Not being a huge fan of crowds, it's always been a turn-off for me to be shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of other sweaty, sometimes shirtless fest-goers before even walking through the gate. Not being able to see any of the acts I'd like because the crowd is too big and having to to wait in line more than a few minutes to get a beer just make it even worse.
Smiley has the right idea here. Making the experience more pleasurable for less people is the way to go. Jamming people in like sardines just to get to some arbitraty number wasn't.