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Postponement of PrideFest and Summerfest due to COVID-19 underlines disruption of 2020 festival season

The parent organization of PrideFest, Wisconsin’s largest LGBTQ+ event, announced on March 18 that it was officially postponing the annual 4-day event. The news was followed a few days later by a similar statement from Summerfest.

The festival was set to take place at the Henry W. Maier Festival Grounds from Thursday, June 4 to Sunday, June 7. Milwaukee Pride, Inc. made the decision after a wave of large event cancelations and postponements due to the developing COVID-19 situation. This is the first time PrideFest has been postponed in its history.

“Pridefest is, and has been a safe space for people to celebrate community and the Pride movement since 1987. Due to the current status of COVID-19, the health, safety and protection of our festival patrons is our first priority,” said Wes Shaver, Milwaukee Pride, Inc. President. “We certainly don’t want to cancel, absolutely not. But, moving forward as planned brings too many risks to the forefront; for our attendees and for our organization.”

PrideFest 2020 planning was well underway, with musical acts under contract and marketing and media ready to launch. The increasing wave of event cancellations across the national and global stage has set a precedent of taking all precautions in order to keep people safe, and to err on the side of caution.

LGBTQ people are at a greater risk from this pandemic for reasons such as health disparities and barriers to health care access. The safety and well-being of our community is the number one consideration of Milwaukee Pride in this difficult decision.

“It’s unfortunate that we need to hit the pause button, considering the significant work our team has already put forth – as well as the incredible and diverse line up we had planned for our stages,” said PrideFest Producer Luke Olson. “I’m confident that once we have a new plan for this year’s festival we’ll be able to pick things up where we left off. Our hope is to bring Milwaukee a world class event like it’s used to.”

The Milwaukee Pride Board of Directors are working with Summerfest on possible alternate dates. The board is also exploring the possibility of different formats and locations. Milwaukee Pride will continue to engage with the Milwaukee community on other, smaller events this summer to keep the Pride movement strong and present.

“We don’t want people to think there will be no PRIDE this year,” said Shaver. “We simply want to ensure we’re taking the right steps forward. We hope people trust that our intentions are for the safety of the community, and for our ability to ensure the sustained future success of PrideFest Milwaukee.”

On March 23, Don Smiley, President and CEO of Milwaukee World Festival announced that Summerfest 2020 will move to new dates in September 3 to 5, 10 to 12 and 17 to 19. The move signals that Milwaukee’s entire summer season of festivals will be postponed or potentially cancelled.

“The music industry has been profoundly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and most live events scheduled for early summer have been cancelled,” said Smiley. “The new dates provide the best possible option to deliver the Summerfest experience our fans and sponsors have grown to love; we are doing everything possible to continue a tradition which spans five decades.”

© Photo

Lee Matz

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