lakefront 7s history

Lakefront 7s began as a small rugby tournament in Milwaukee in the summer of 1982. From those humble beginnings, the Lakefront 7s has grown into a rugby festival featuring 100+ teams across all age groups. The Lakefront 7s has also hosted teams from around the world, numerous qualification events for USA Rugby, and the Championship Cup Series (USA Sevens LLC).

Lakefront 7s is organized by members of the Milwaukee Barbarians Athletic Club (formerly the Milwaukee West Side Harlequins and Milwaukee RFC) and their friends and family. For decades, the event was organized by Papa Joe Kloiber — founder of the West Side Harlequins and the Lakefront 7s — and his family members who continue to play an important role in the event.

On the 30th anniversary of the event in 2012, Papa Joe received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his tireless efforts to promote rugby in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin.

"Papa" Joe Kloiber
Rugby festival founder ‘Papa’ Joe Kloiber circa 1990.

In 2000, Joe Cunningham took over the day-to-day organization. In 2009 Victor Drover began spearheading the event as Tournament Director, a position he held through 2014. During his tenure, the event modernized, added flag rugby — a.k.a non-contact rugby — for middle and elementary school students, and grew rapidly to become the largest summer rugby event in the United States. Improved recording from 2009 marks the beginning of the Modern Era for the event.

Erik Schleicher took over as Tournament Director in 2014 and Cathy Nirschl joined the team as Administrative Assistant in 2015.

In 2018, Cathy became co-director along with her spouse Ben and Joseph Kloiber (Papa Joe’s son).

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the which returned in 2021.

Participating Teams

Past Champions

The ‘modern’ era of the Lakefront 7s began in 2009 when the ease of computing facilitated the keeping of more accurate records.

To review the existing record of champions at the Lakefront 7s, please visit the page dedicated for this purpose.