© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

After a two-year hiatus, PrideFest in Milwaukee is back

PrideFest parade
Milwaukee PrideFest INC
Milwaukee PrideFest Parade

It is June, which also means Pride Month, and for the past 25 years PrideFest has kicked off the festival season here in Milwaukee.

This year is particularly special with the return of a summer PrideFest in person after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. A few things have changed — like a new footprint of the grounds starting at the mid-gate Summerfest entrance and an emphasis on local partnerships.

Milwaukee Pride Inc. President Wes Shaver says it's an honor to kick off the festival season and celebrate the 25th year of having PrideFest at Henry Maier Festival Park.

"We're just really excited about about how we've retained that original spirit in that original heart with that [mid-gate] entrance, that first impression, but just slightly pivoted it to meet the modern needs of the festival," he explains.

Two years with no festival revenue was challenging for the organization because they are 100% volunteer run. And while no one lost their job because of it, Shaver says, they also could not apply for government aid during the pandemic because of the nonprofit's structure.

This year's return to an in-person celebration can help strengthen Milwaukee's social fabric to create more dynamic, diverse and equitable opportunities, Shaver says. And this year, PrideFest is getting back to engaging and amplifying the voices of the community with 85% of this year's entertainment lineup featuring local performers.

"This is truly a Milwaukee festival by Milwaukeeans for Milwaukeeans. We're activating again, we're probably in the 90th percentile of local vendors and business partners that helped make the event happen. So that dedication to being local is something that I'm excited about the most for this year," he says.

Another unique feature of Milwaukee PrideFest is the health and wellness area. During the pandemic, Shaver says he created a health & wellness virtual directory so that access to free resources is also available beyond the festival grounds.

As PrideFest kicks off, Shaver's message to the community is for everyone to join what he calls a family reunion.

"I want everyone to know that we want to see them and we look forward to, and in Milwaukee fashion, raising a beer with everybody and clinking glasses and throwing your arm around somebody. You know that's what we're looking forward to. I just want to say to everyone, please join us be a part of the community, be a part of the celebration," he says.

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
Related Content