View the Milwaukee Pride web site at this link (will open in a separate browser window).
In approximately 2015, the organization 'PrideFest Inc.' was disbanded, and a new organization, 'Milwaukee Pride Inc' was set up as the parent organization of Milwaukee's annual PrideFest. The change was made to better reflect the goal of making LGBT Pride celebrations more of a year-round effort, in addition to just running the 3- or 4-day annual PrideFest festival event.
There has been a great deal of controversy with the organization since its inception however. The organization has little to show for itself outside of the annual PrideFest festival; the goal of making its presence known throughout the year has not been realized, at least not in any manner visible to the community.
Organizationally, in the years from 2017 to 2020, a large number of board members of Milwaukee Pride resigned well before their terms were up, and those we have spoken with indicate in some cases they feel they were forced out by leadership for asking too many questions. Even some long-time leaders of the previous PrideFest Inc, who were initially in favor of establishing the new Milwaukee Pride Inc parent corporation, have become disillusioned and have withdrawn from major involvement.
Throughout 2020, and for at least the first half of 2021, Milwaukee Pride has not even had a web site. As of this writing, their web site simply says "Fabulous New Website! Coming Soon". But why should it take over 18 months to update a web site? As a practical matter, any well-run organization would not take down their old website until AFTER the new one was ready. There is no explanation from the organization's leadership for the lack of a meaningful website.
Inquiries made to the organization by a community leader in 2020 were met with a stone wall of resistance. Past board members of Milwaukee Pride had reported that no written financial reports were made available to them, and no independent audits of the organization's finances had been done in some years. Without a web site, no annual reports, lists of board members, etc. were available to the public either.
When questions were raised about the above failures, and about such information as the terms of By-laws and term limits, the Milwaukee Pride website was quickly modified to show some critical documents at the very bottom of the still-present "Fabulous new website coming soon" page. But concerningly, the By-laws shown on their web site show they were modified in September 2020, eliminating any term limits and allowing officers to remain in place indefinitely, obviously in response to those queries.
When inquiries were made as to when the changes were made, and who the board members were who had voted for them and why, the only reponse was that "board minutes are proprietary" and would not be made available. In other words, the organization wants to hide WHO is making what decisions, and WHY.
In full disclosure, Milwaukee Pride approached this organization (Wisconsin LGBT History Project) late in 2018 and offered to sponsor the History project's website. All expenses prior to 2018 had been borne personally by the webmaster. Milwaukee Pride reimbursed the webmaster for its expenses during 2018, 2019 and through April 2020. The webmaster and contributors appreciated Milwaukee Pride's offer, but we were never totally comfortable with the relationship. Multiple requests were made to meet with the Milwaukee Pride board to discuss mutual expectations, but no invitation was ever extended. As a resuilt, and because of the questionable viability and leadership of Milwaukee Pride Inc., this project has severed relations with Milwaukee Pride Inc and will resume self-funding its expenses.
There was no Milwaukee PrideFest in 2020 due to the COVID-19 (Coronovirus) pandemic (which banned large gatherings throughout the US and the world from March 2020 to approximately April 2021). The organization's press release in January 2021 stated that "Milwaukee Pride cancels June dates for 2021. Intends to move to later date in 2021." There was eventually a Pridefest in October 2021, but the entertainment lineup was not released until a week or two beforehand, and as a result attendance was poor, and the organization failed to release attendance numbers.
The Pridefest event of 2022 returned to June dates, but the event ran only Thursday night through Saturday, with Sunday closed. Again, entertainment lineup was not released until a week prior, so there was no advertising in local print media or even LGBT bars for the event. And ticket prices of $25 (the highest ever) also dampened interest. Again, attendance numbers were never released. Pridefest 2023 appears to also be headed for disaster: again, entertainmnet lineup was not announced until about 2 weeks prior; it will be closed Sunday; and Friday and Saturday ticket prices of $25 will further dampen interest.
We are of course hopeful that Milwaukee's signature Pride festival can return to its successful formula: a more reasonable ticket price; earlier release of entertainment lineup; and advertising in local print media and bars and other businesses. But we are concerned about the viability and lack of leadership in PrideFest's parent organization, Milwaukee Pride, and hope it can work through its issues and once more become responsive to the community as a whole soon.
(See the individual PrideFest yearly pages, linked from the PrideFest timeline, for more specific writeups of activities, successes and failures in each individual year.)
Credits: web site concept, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Editorial content by the webmaster, Don Schwamb based on discussions with ex-board members and others.
Last updated: May-2023.
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.