Amid historic court decision, PrideFest entertains record-breaking crowd

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Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele takes the stage during the June 6 opening or PrideFest to announce that the state's ban on same-sex marriage has been overturned. He also said that he was keeping the county courthouse open until 9 p.m. and opening it again on Saturday to allow lesbians and gays who've been waiting for years to finally get to the altar. -Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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PrideFest visitors. -Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, explaining the ruling finding the state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The ACLU launched the lawsuit to overturn the ban on behalf of eight same-sex couples in the state. -Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, second from left, poses for a photograph with PrideFest visitors. -Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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Out state Sen. Tim Carpenter, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett march in the Milwaukee Pride Parade on June 8. -Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa waves to the crowd at the Milwaukee Pride Parade. -Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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Showing some PDA at PrideFest. -Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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Showing some skin at PrideFest. -Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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On stage at PrideFest. -Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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Relaxing with friends at PrideFest. -Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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Snapping a selfie at PrideFest. -Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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Enjoying the entertainment at PrideFest. -Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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Playing the diva. -Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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-Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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Some PDA at PrideFest. -Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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-Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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-Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

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At the June 9 Milwaukee Pride Parade. -Photo: Dave Lauersdorf

PrideFest Milwaukee 2014 got off to a historic start, with U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb striking down Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional within one hour of the festival’s opening on Friday afternoon, June 6. During the festival’s opening ceremony, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele announced that he would personally pay for the county courthouse to remain open until 9 p.m. so that couples who’ve waited for years could get married right away. He and County Clerk Joe Czarnezki opened the courthouse again on June 7 to accommodate same-sex couples.

Although the court decision faces an uncertain future, it brought an extraordinary level of enthusiasm to the record-breaking 31,295 visitors who thronged to Milwaukee’s lakefront June 6, 7 and 8 to enjoy the world’s largest LGBT music festival. This year’s attendance reflected a 3-percent increase over the previous record of 30,385, set in 2010.

Revenue results, including funds raised for the ACLU Plus One Campaign, which allowed visitors to donate an extra dollar at the gate to fund the group’s lawsuit for marriage equality, were not immediately available. Diamond Nexus, a Milwaukee-based Internet jewelry company, has pledged to match every dollar contributed up to $10,000.

“We are so deeply humbled by what we’ve seen and heard this weekend,” said Kate Sherry, festival co-producer. “Our visitors, volunteers, and performers shared how excited and proud they were to be here, with us, during this historic weekend. You have been heard, and we are feeling the love. Thank you for all the photos, emails, voicemails, tweets, Facebook posts, and hugs.” 

“PrideFest is extremely pleased with everything that happened this weekend: wonderful weather, outstanding programming and such beautiful crowds,” said PrideFest Milwaukee president Scott Gunkel. “The timing of the marriage equality news was a great gift to the people of Wisconsin and our PrideFest visitors. Love won out, pure and simple, this weekend.”