Jeramey Jannene

PrideFest 2021 Canceled, For Now

Early June festival canceled while organizers seek a new date.

By - Jan 26th, 2021 08:45 am
2016 PrideFest. Photo by Abe Van Dyke courtesy of PrideFest.

2016 PrideFest. Photo by Abe Van Dyke courtesy of PrideFest.

With a vaccine rollout going slower than hoped, a number of Milwaukee festival organizers will need to decide whether to proceed with planning for their summer events or pull the plug for a second consecutive year.

The first domino fell Tuesday morning.

Milwaukee Pride announced that PrideFest 2021 is canceled while organizers seek a later date. The volunteer-led festival is held annually over four days on the first weekend in June. It serves informally, alongside the Locust Street Festival, as the kickoff to Milwaukee’s summer festival season. The 2019 festival was the 32nd annual event.

“After much consideration, we cannot move forward with planning a June 2021 festival without knowing how and when a vaccine will be distributed throughout our community equally” said Milwaukee Pride, Inc. president Wes Shaver in a statement. “It is still unclear as to how (or if) public gatherings will happen in 2021 and we cannot risk the health and wellbeing of our community by putting the festival ahead of the people it serves.”

PrideFest is held at Henry Maier Festival Park. The organization said it is looking at alternative dates later in the year with Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., which holds the master lease for the grounds and produces Summerfest. MWF’s music festival is scheduled to take place over three weekends, June 24-26, July 1-3 and July 8-10.

“There are serious inequities within our community when it comes to accessibility to health care, medicine, and COVID-19 testing. The idea that, hypothetically, someone with quicker or more readily available access to health care resources could attend, while others could not, was not an option,” said Shaver. “PrideFest is a space for everyone. We cannot have any additional factors that create divides and fractures within our community.”

There is one part of PrideFest that will still happen, albeit virtually. The health & wellness area will become a virtual directory. Organizations that wish to participate can do so with a free listing. The organization is accepting donations to fund the directory’s development.

“Although we are disappointed that we will not be able to meet in person at PrideFest, we look forward to working with Milwaukee Pride and our community partners on other ways to celebrate Pride and support our health, wellness and self-care needs in 2021,” said Diverse and Resilient president and CEO Gerry Coon.

“Now, more than ever, we need to amplify the work of our community partners and increase accessibility and awareness of the many services, resources, and programs available to support LGBTQ+ people,” said Shaver.

The unaffiliated Milwaukee Pride Parade, which takes place the same weekend on S. 2nd St., has not been canceled at this point. Neither event took place in 2020.

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