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Planning a Year of Pride?

Jun. 20, 2017
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PrideFest’s record-setting attendance of more than 37,600 certainly proves we’re a vibrant, engaged community. Still, while we bask in the Pride weekend afterglow, the question “What next?” might not yet have occurred to most of us. But, at month’s end, we may sadly realize…not much. Yes, there’s the GAMMA Fourth of July Party, and later, the LGBT Family Picnic as well a few other smaller events. New this summer is the inaugural Milwaukee International Gay Rugby 101 on Aug. 5. There’s nothing like a good scrum, I always say…or a good ruck, for that matter. But it’s just a one-day tutorial on mauling, tackling and rugby rough-housing followed by an obligatory “beer bash and shenanigans.”

Of course, there’s the city’s summer lineup of festivals. Some, like the Brady and Center Street Daze festivals, although not gay per se, have a certain appeal. They all certainly sound like great fun but they’ll hardly have a crowd of such diversity or numbers as PrideFest.

So, what to do with the rest of our brief summer should have us pondering the possibilities. One idea got a little buzz going a few years ago, namely a concert series like Jazz in the Park. It could be a monthly event, perhaps in July after Bastille Days and again in August. The logical venue would be Cathedral Square where one could depend on the support of local businesses and the East Town Association. Our local LGBTQ talent pool could easily provide an evening’s entertainment. Back in the days of the Gay Arts Center Stage at PrideFest we managed to schedule six consecutive hours of back-to-back stage acts for three nights with all volunteer talent. Often, more that 75 performers graced the GAC stage on any given night. There were troupes of modern ballet, hip-hop, flamenco, salsa and, of course, belly dancers. Musical acts included acoustic and electric lesbians as well as straight rock bands. Stand-up comedians, gender-queer and drag performers filled out the lineup. We even staged plays. In other words, there’s no dearth of reliable talent to fill the traditional three-hour slot that makes up a typical night at Jazz in the Park.

In these strange political times when the LGBTQ community (and the rest of the country’s minorities) is under the strain of an official government strategy of curtailing civil rights, it is imperative we keep a year-round profile. While not overtly political, Pride in the Park, like PrideFest, would be a means of making a public statement of our presence. And, the message would reach beyond the LGBTQ community.

Then, in October, we have SSBL’s annual softball tournament, the Dairyland Classic that attracts dozens of national and international teams. The Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival follows in early November.

And why stop there? Winter needn’t dampen our enthusiasm. In fact, in this state, the season should encourage it. Perhaps DJ’d nights of Skating with Pride at Red Arrow Park would be in order. I can almost feel the frosty air and smell the mingling fragrances of roasting chestnuts and mulled wine.

Next thing you know, it will be June, and time again for PrideFest.

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