PrideFest Milwaukee reported record-breaking attendance for the 2019 Milwaukee Pride festival, held June 6 to 9 at Henry W. Maier Festival Park in Milwaukee.

This year’s total confirmed festival attendance was 45,787, an increase of +1% over the 2018 total of 45,400. The growth is especially significant, following this year’s cost-conscious decision to reduce Sunday hours and footprint in response to a three-year downtrend. The choices allowed festival operators and visitors to attend the largest Milwaukee Pride Parade in history, which also broke records with 133 parade entries.

The 2nd Annual Ride with Pride, presented in partnership with Harley-Davidson, also broke previous records. This year saw 300 riders participate in the world’s largest LGBTQ-themed motorcycle run, which roared through Milwaukee streets on June 8.

The 2019 PrideFest Plus One Campaign, benefiting future LGBTQ leaders via the UWM LGBT Resource Center, raised a $10,419 in donations. Milwaukee Pride plans to match donations for a total gift of $20,838. Since 2012, the PrideFest Plus One Campaign has raised over $60,000 for critical community causes.

The festival also received significant local and national media coverage, including the festival’s first appearance on NBC’s Today Show, an extensive photo gallery in The Advocate, and an event recap on the Harley-Davidson corporate blog.

Changing Times

PrideFest Milwaukee 2019 was the swan song for veteran board member Michail Takach, who has resigned from the Milwaukee Pride Board of Directors and his role as Vice President of Communications. Since 2010, Michail has served Milwaukee Pride in a variety of brand marketing, PR, education and outreach roles. He will continue to support Milwaukee Pride’s Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project as an author and curator.

During his tenure, Milwaukee Pride not only doubled festival attendance, but experienced unprecedented evolution, including incorporation as a year-round 501c3 nonprofit organization; introduction of multiple annual community events; creation of the organization’s first scholarship program; implementation of the Rainbow Crosswalks Initiative in Cathedral Square; increased awareness, advocacy and financial support for transgender causes; acquisition of the 25-year-old Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project, and publication of the first comprehensive history of LGBT Milwaukee; curation of the largest social media audience of any Wisconsin LGBTQ organization, as well as the third-largest Milwaukee festival audience; expansion of PrideFest Milwaukee to a four-day weekend event with neighborhood and parade integration; and committed coverage from local, regional and national media.

From Milwaukee Pride to WorldPride

For the first time ever, Milwaukee was represented at WorldPride 2019 among over 250 pride organizations worldwide. WorldPride, held this year in New York City in honor of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, attracted over 4 million visitors.

Milwaukee Pride was proud to send a delegation of four volunteers to the event. Delegates networked with InterPride members, attended speeches and presentations, and walked in the New York Pride March, now recognized as the largest pride parade in history.

Volunteers from the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project also attended key WorldPride activities, including a reunion of Stonewall Uprising survivors on June 28 and the first-ever Queer Liberation March on June 30. WorldPride and Pride Month 2019 concluded with closing ceremonies in Times Square, with Milwaukee Pride was there to support it.

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Lee Matz