History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Organizations - Activist & Political


Based in:

Green Bay & Appleton





View the Rainbow Over Wisconsin web site at this link (will open in a separate browser window).

Founded following the success of the “Alive With Pride 95” gay pride event by the region’s tavern keepers, Rainbow Over Wisconsin, Inc. was formally established in 1996 in an effort to coordinate fund-raising for the betterment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community in central, eastern and northeastern Wisconsin. Rainbow Over Wisconsin (ROW) has grown from a group that had served to coordinate a pride picnic and bar benefit shows, to a non-profit, tax-exempt community foundation whose members include area business owners, LGBT activists and people who simply want to make northeast Wisconsin’s gay community the best it can be.

Like its sister organizations - Milwaukee’s Cream City Foundation and Madison’s New Harvest - ROW financially assists the work of local and regional groups serving the LGBT community in central, eastern and northeast Wisconsin through its Community Enrichment Fund grant program. In the last eleven years, Rainbow Over WI has funded more than 60 projects developed by over two dozen groups.

As of 2007, ROW has distributed over $100,000 in grants to over two dozen LGBT member and LGBT supportive organizations throughout the state of Wisconsin through its Community Enrichment Fund (CEF). For the calendar year of 2008 for example, ROW planned to make grants available for work on specific projects developed by groups that will enhance the quality of life for LGBT community members. Some examples of anticipated ROW Community Enrichment Fund projects are: educational seminars and similar programs on LGBT issues, outreach programs to reduce health risks, programs to provide emergency housing or other financial assistance to eligible community members, etc.

ROW funding/underwriting has made the following possible!

  • Condoms available in area bars, clubs and at other gay community events (funding ARCW’s Outreach).
  • Educational outreach on domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples to northeast WI employers - over 35 now offer such benefits! (underwriting Action Wisconsin Education Fund projects).
  • Since 2003, coordinating the Guernsey Gala, benefitting more than 200 people living with HIV/AIDS served by ARCW’s Green Bay office.
  • Assisting a variety of events and projects for gay youth (underwriting the GLBT Partnership).
  • Re-establishment of a NE Wisconsin "Pride" celebration event (see below).
  • ...and much, much more!

While the 1996 “Alive With Pride” picnic was ROW's beginnings, it began to evolve to do more than simply coordinate a pride picnic and bar show fundraising shows. Yet ROW continued to coordinate annual NE Wisconsin pride picnics held in Appleton, Hilbert and DePere over the next eight years. Following its 2003 pride event however, ROW was faced with a difficult choice. To respond to the increased financial development demands from northeast LGBT community organizations, it had to decide to either stay in the “pride business” or follow more closely its stated mission as a community foundation with more diversified fundraising programming. Since it also in the interim had been asked to take over the Guernsey Gala fundraising pageant that annually raised thousands of dollars for HIV/AIDS care, ROW chose the latter. Pride event planning over the next four years went to the Argonauts of Wisconsin, who put together a loose knit coalition of community members to run the pride picnics. A licensing snafu cancelled the 2006 picnic, and the 2007 event drew fewer than 50 attendees.

So in 2008, Rainbow Over Wisconsin was back in the pride business - sort of. ROW agreed to provide a new generation of community leaders- the NEWPride Committee of the LGBT Green Bay Area Action Network- its fiscal agency umbrella plus $5,000 in seed money and credit, to develop and run "NEWPRide", or Pride Alive. The Pride Alive events in mid-July of 2008 and 2009 were both incredibly successful, with perfect weather and extensive and favorable coverage by all the local media.

The 2008 Pride Alive picnic also hosted the first presentation of another ROW offshoot: the first-ever "History Display" for Northeast Wisconsin, showcasing the area's wealth of gay bars, groups, entertainers, and other events.

Rainbow Over Wisconsin Mission Statement: To promote the growth and stability of our Les-Bi-Gay community.

Rainbow Over Wisconsin Purpose Statement: To produce and execute fund raising events and other activities including the annual Alive With Pride picnic for which the proceeds are to be distributed to charitable and educational organizations whose purpose is consistent with the mission statement of this group.


Logo for ROW Dinners

Ad for ROW Dinner, November 2007

ROW Flyer, November 2007 (side 1)

ROW Flyer, November 2007 (side 2)

Credits: Bulk of information from Rainbow Over Wisconsin website.
History website concept and design by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: July-2009.