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PrideFest: A Party with a Purpose

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Despite the landmark Supreme Court ruling last year that legalized gay marriage, there still are many hurdles for the LGBTQ community to overcome. Some of these issues include adoption, housing rights, workplace equality and transgender rights.

Yet, there is still plenty to celebrate at this year's PrideFest.

"This year we're celebrating twenty years on the Summerfest grounds and thirty years of having a PrideFest in Milwaukee. So for us that means so much that the community has come out and supported us year after year," says Milwaukee Pride Board of Directors member, Jorna Taylor.

This year also marks an important shift in the mission of Pridefest. It is turning "the party" into a way to impact the LGBT community beyond the weekend the festival takes place, by transitioning into a nonprofit organization, called Milwaukee Pride, Inc. 

"We see over 30,000 people come through our gates every year over the course of the weekend. And we said to ourselves, 'how do we use that reach and impact year-round?'" says Taylor. "We also still throw the party, but we use those relationships we make with people to partner with other organization across the state and the city doing great work."

PrideFest is the nation's largest showcase of LGBT talent in any festival setting, according to Taylor. In addition to bringing in big entertainment such as Sarah Silverman and Blondie, PrideFest also makes sure to have a platform for local talent. This year, a new stage by Milwaukee Record will showcase local musicians, and local group GGOOLLDD will be opening for Blondie.

"It's really important that we have a great opportunity to showcase these now emerging artists that are going to blow up on the scene," notes Taylor.

Although the general public may think that PrideFest is only for people who identify themselves as LGBTQ, Taylor encourages everyone in Milwaukee to join in the festivities. "It's not just a party, but a community education piece as well," Taylor explains. 

Taylor says that there are many resources at the fest regarding healthcare, legal rights as well as ways to connect with various organizations. She also notes that having the resources and exposure available to Milwaukee is important to creating a more accepting environment.

"We always want to put a best face forward for the LGBTQ community and the allies," she says. "What that means though is educating folks on how to be tolerant of different lifestyles... Who you are is important to us, and that you have a safe space to go. So whether you are gay, straight, transgender, queer – wherever you fall on the spectrum we want you to have a safe place to celebrate, and that’s the most important thing."

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Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.