Biggest PrideFest parties hard, grieves Orlando

PrideFest Milwaukee set an attendance record this year, as 33,438 guests streamed into the three-day event on the Summerfest grounds June 10–12.

That was a 2 percent increase over the prior record — last year’s total of 32,822.

People went to socialize, dance and hear a robust lineup of performers, including Sarah Silverman, Blondie and GGOOLLDD.

The festival began with a rousing speech by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, but ended on a somber note following the massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, June 12. A 4 p.m. Sunday vigil on the festival grounds gave attendees a time to grieve, and a makeshift memorial on the lakefront offered a place to contemplate the tragedy.

Crisis counselors were made available for attendees struggling with their feelings.

“It was definitely a somber feeling on the grounds when people were specifically memorializing … what happened,” said Milwaukee Pride executive director Erib Heinritz. “But in general I didn’t feel that the patrons of the festival were letting this get them down. They came out not letting this experience silence them.

“We kept our message strong — that we don’t want the patrons of the LGBT community and allies to be silenced by this, but to come out and be proud.”

Patrons responded by making June 12 a record-breaking Sunday in terms of festival attendance.

Faces of Pride, images from PrideFest

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