Pridefest launches festival season with a weekend of music and fun

The nation's biggest showcase of LGBT entertainment returns to the Summerfest grounds for its 39th year, having grown from a small fete to the unofficial start of summer.

By - Jun 7th, 2013 11:08 am


Pridefest kicks off festival season today at the Summerfest grounds. With a renewed emphasis on diversity, the organizers of this year’s fest set about creating an environment as rich and multifaceted  as the multicultural, multigenerational LGBT community it exists to celebrate.

As the nation’s largest showcase of LGBT entertainment (10 stages, over 100 acts), Pridefest 2013 has plenty to offer beyond the festival’s headliners: Erasure‘s Andy Bell on Friday, the Indigo Girls on Saturday and Amanda Palmer on Sunday. “With new venues like the Riviera Maya stage, innovative new food and beverage vendors, returning favorites at the Wom!nz Spot, some of the top drag talent in the Midwest, and a Miller Lite Mainstage line-up reflecting music from all three decades of PrideFest, this year’s festival truly offers something for everyone,” says Michail Takach, PR director for Pridefest 2013.

He said the event’s other musical performers reflected that generational diversity as well. On Friday, Sophie B. Hawkins opens up the Miller High Life stage with a tribute to ABBA. On Saturday, there’s “Bad Romance,” a dance-infused tribute to Lady Gaga at the dance pavilion. New York-based electronic all-star Dangerous Muse warms up the Amanda Palmer crowd to close out the fest at the Miller High Life stage Sunday. And every night, local legend Dora Diamond hosts Dora Diamond’s Gay Cabaret at the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center Stage.

“These shows, and so many others this weekend, are truly not to be missed, ” Takach said.

Beyond musical entertainment, there’s also a children and families stage, with performances by magicians and fortune tellers, the brand new Community Center Space (in the Harley Davidson building and stage area) which features a full-service bar and comedy stage, as well as a health and wellness area, where organizations like Fair Wisconsin and BeSTD Clinic will be on-site to talk about their marriage equality efforts and offer STD testing and information, respectively.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Pridefest, given that extensive list of events, is that the event is entirely self-funded, reliant entirely on sponsors, donors, ticket sales and especially volunteers.

“This could easily be a year-round part-time job for many of our team members,” Takach said, “and yet they find the time, energy, and spirit to commit to our cause no matter what.  If it wasn’t for the volume and vigor of our volunteers, there would be no PrideFest Milwaukee to attend this year, or any year.”

There’s little telling what the fest might look like in the next ten or even five years, but with things like marriage equality on the national horizon and LGBT representation in the media gradually improving, Takach is adamant about the need for Pridefest to operate from a state of constant self-reinvention. “It’s impossible to predict what PrideFest 2023 will look like,” Takach said, “but we hope to find the world a better place because of it.”

It is this quality that has carried the fest to where it is today from its humble beginnings in 1974. Then, it was the Gay People’s Union Ball, held by the Gay People’s Union student organization at UWM.

350 people attended that inaugural event. This weekend, the festival expects more than 20,000.

Pridefest General admission is $16, or $30 for a 3-day pass. Tickets are available at the gate or on the festival’s website. For more on the history of Milwaukee’s LGBT movement, visit the University of Wisconsin’s fascinating digital collection of primary documents from the Gay People’s Union.

Categories: Lifestyle

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