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PrideFest 2018 attendance tops previous record set last year

Despite grey skies, unseasonable cold and intermittent rain showers from June 7 to June 10, the 31st Annual PrideFest Milwaukee conquered the weekend weather with unprecedented attendance outcomes.

For the seventh consecutive year, PrideFest delivered record-breaking attendance with 45,400 visitors in 2018. This number reflects a 21% increase over the previous record of 37,682 set in 2017. This is the single largest year-over-year increase in the 31-year history of PrideFest Milwaukee.

“Attending an event of this size, complexity and quality, it may be hard to believe that we are an all-volunteer organization” said Michail Takach, vice president of Milwaukee Pride, Inc. “But here’s the honest truth: PrideFest Milwaukee would not be possible without hundreds of devoted, passionate, unpaid volunteers who come together every year to make this event happen for the community.”

2018 was a “year of firsts” for PrideFest Milwaukee, including PrideFest’s first-ever four-day weekend as the festival expanded with a Thursday Launch Party; the first-ever 1st Annual Ride with Pride, in partnership with Harley-Davidson Museum, Fuel Cafe, and Brewtown Rumble; and the first-ever VIP Tea Dance.

2018 was also the first year that PrideFest Milwaukee rejected tobacco sponsorship dollars, refocusing on local LGBTQ well-being through expanded Health & Wellness, Stonewall Stage, PrideFit and South Ends Sports Zone programming.

Through the PrideFest Plus One Campaign, the festival also raised $6,079 for this year’s beneficiary, Diverse & Resilient. This is the largest sum ever raised at the festival for a Plus One cause.

“We are humbled by your support,” said Gerry Coon, executive director of Diverse & Resilient. “We are on the front lines teaching young people about sexual health, safe dating, STI testing & prevention, and the risks of substance misuse. By saying Plus One at the box office, you said yes to a healthier LGBTQ community.”

PrideFest Milwaukee 2018 welcomed headliners The B-52s, Jussie Smollett, Daya, JoJo, Cash Cash and over 300 additional acts at 10 performance spaces, including the extremely popular Dance Pavilion, Wom!nz Spot and Milwaukee Record Stages.

Virginia Delegate Danica Roem served as keynote speaker at Opening Ceremonies, where the 2018 Pride Awards were delivered to five local heroes. This year’s Opening Ceremonies were dedicated to Josie Carter, a gender non-conforming woman of color whose involvement in the Black Nite Brawl of 1961 marked Wisconsin’s first documented LGBTQ uprising. Carter was also celebrated at this year’s PrideFest History Exhibit.

“As those who strive to preserve history, it only makes sense that we continue to make history. Who would ever have dreamed in 1988 that a modest picnic in Mitchell Park would become a world-class celebration recognized worldwide?” said Wes Shaver, president of Milwaukee Pride, Inc. “When you walked through our gates, you put your name in our history book. You left your mark. You told the world that you support and advocate for Milwaukee’s incredible LGBTQ community. We can’t thank you enough.”

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