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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Bigger PrideFest, A Momentous Year

PrideFest
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At this stunning moment in America for LGBT people and everyone who believes in equal rights, the theme of PrideFest 2014: Make Your Moment is at once a call to celebration and action.

In mid-May, Oregon and Pennsylvania became the 18th and 19th states to have their bans on same-sex marriage halted by a federal judge. According to the New York Times, 44% of the nation’s population now lives in states where LGBT people can marry. Wisconsin may yet join that blessed map, thanks to the lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the law firm of Mayer Brown on behalf of eight Wisconsin couples who wish to marry or to have their legal out-of-state marriages recognized. Even the governor seems to recognize that continued hostility to marriage equality will cost him more at the polls than it will gain him.

PrideFest is partnering with the ACLU to raise money and to build the groundswell of support. Festivalgoers are invited to contribute an extra dollar at the gate to support the ACLU’s lawsuit. The jewelry company Diamond Nexus has agreed to match every donated dollar up to $10,000. On Sunday, June 8, at the PrideFest Stonewall Stage, the ACLU and the couples who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit will meet the community in a presentation titled “Love Will Win.”

On other fronts, 18 states now specifically include transgender people in laws protecting basic civil rights. PrideFest is celebrating not only such political wins but also the seismic social and cultural shifts in the country that make them possible. The number of positive role models for LGBT people in media, film, television and advertising is greater than ever. Anti-discrimination protections for LGBT workers are taking place nationally. Cracks in the lavender ceiling are imaginable.

PrideFest rightly sees itself as a player in these momentous changes. The PrideFest Facebook page (facebook.com/PrideFestMKE) offers stories of “moments” from past festivals that personalize 26 years of cultural activism. According to Michail Takach, PrideFest communications and social media director, the page has added an average of 1,000 followers each month in 2014, to 23,000 followers and growing. “We have an ongoing dialogue with the LGBT community every day,” he explained. “This year we’re asking people, how will you make your moment?” It’s bigger than a three-day event.

As for the event, Takach and festival co-producer Kate Sherry challenge anyone to find a comparable Pride celebration in the country this year. At no increase to any level of admission price, PrideFest 2014 features nine outstanding headliners, reflecting an unprecedented diversity of programming. On Friday: comedian Bruce Vilanch, Cher doppelganger Chad Michaels and rapper Cazwell. On Saturday: musicians Mary Lambert, Steve Grand, Big Freedia and Macy Gray. On Sunday: comedians Sandra Bernhard and Lisa Lampanelli. “This year’s lineup reflects the diversity of our local LGBT community better than ever before,” said Takach. “There is truly something for everyone.”

More than 100 entertainers will perform on a dozen stages. As an alternative to daily admission, a $30 weekend pass gives access to all of it. It’s available at the gate through opening day on Friday, June 6, or online until noon that day. As Takach notes, “You couldn’t see any of these performers alone for $30, much less all of them in one weekend.”

If you can’t afford admission, volunteer. Apply on the website homepage. PrideFest remains an all-volunteer organization from grounds workers to president. With no salaries, office space or overhead, every dollar goes to future festivals. Increased attendance for the past two years has made this year’s expansion possible.

The new Rainbow Stage will feature legendary DJs from Milwaukee’s disco era on Saturday, and Latino musicians and comedians on Sunday. Returning are the Dance Pavilion, the Wom!nz Spot Café and Lounge, the Children’s and Family Stage, the LGBT Community Loft Lounge and Tiki Bar, the Arts and Culture Building, the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center Stage, the Health and Wellness Stage, the Youth Area, the Marketplace, the Stonewall Stage and Miller Lite Mainstage.

Milwaukee will become a regional Pride destination June 5-8. In addition to PrideFest, the Pride Parade on Sunday, June 8, at 2 p.m. on South Second Street, the Big Gay 5K Run/Walk on Thursday, June 5, at 6:30 p.m. in Veteran’s Park and two major concerts intended to complement these events will also take place in town. On Thursday, the Indigo Girls—PrideFest 2013 headliners—will light up the Pabst Theater. On Friday, Cher and Cyndi Lauper will storm the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The latter is sponsoring a shuttle between the festival and concert hall before and after the 8 p.m. concert. VISIT Milwaukee is partnering with PrideFest to make travel arrangements as easy as possible.

For the full lineup and other information, visit pridefest.com.