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.”