PrideFest in Milwaukee cancels June dates, aims for event later in 2021

Piet Levy
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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PrideFest, one of the largest and longest-running LGBTQ+ festivals in the country, is calling off its June event on the Milwaukee lakefront.

Organizers are hopeful that an event could still happen later in 2021. 

“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,” Wes Shaver, president of Milwaukee Pride Inc., said in a statement Tuesday. “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. 

"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.”

Established in 1987, PrideFest has become one of the most popular annual events in the City of Festivals, achieving record attendance in 2019 with 45,787 guests. 

PrideFest was canceled last year for the first time because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as was nearly every other mass gathering event in Milwaukee and around the world. 

The Milwaukee Pride Parade is a centerpiece of PrideFest.

Vaccinations are underway, with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading infectious diseases expert, expressing hope at a White House press conference last week that herd immunity would be achieved in late summer. Fauci has suggested 75% to 85% of the country's population would need to be vaccinated to achieve that threshold. 

The uncertainty is already having an impact on summer festivals the world missed out on last year. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Governor's Ball in New York, which typically take place in May and June, announced fall 2021 dates earlier this month. In England last week, Glastonbury, one of the world's premier music festivals, announced its cancellation for a second straight year.

And Summerfest is already being affected, with headliner Halsey on Friday canceling her summer tour and planned headlining show at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater on July 3. 

“While we are disappointed Halsey’s tour will not play the American Family Insurance Amphitheater this summer, Milwaukee World Festival Inc. continues to build a diverse, blockbuster Summerfest lineup for our fans," Summerfest officials said in a statement issued Friday. "Our team is working closely with civic officials and health care professionals to safely bring live music back to the lakefront. More information on Summerfest 2021 will be forthcoming in the weeks to come.”

For now, Summerfest is still scheduled for Maier Festival Park for June 24 to 26, July 1 to 3 and July 8 to 10.

But PrideFest 2021, which had been scheduled for Maier Festival Park from June 3 to 6, won't happen as initially planned.

In a press release, PrideFest officials said they are working with Milwaukee World Festival on possible alternate dates, and are exploring different formats and locations if Maier Festival Park isn't available. 

“We don’t want people to think there will be no Pride this year,” Luke Olson, PrideFest festival producer and vice president of Milwaukee Pride Inc., said in a statement. “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.” 

Milwaukee Pride officials also announced on Tuesday that they are launching a new health and wellness online directory. Listings and access are free, but donations are requested at

Contact Piet at (414) 223-5162 or Follow him on Twitter at @pietlevy or Facebook at

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