Milwaukee PrideFest returns after 2-year COVID hiatus

NOW: Milwaukee PrideFest returns after 2-year COVID hiatus

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- One of the country's longest-running celebrations of the LGBTQ community returns after two years of cancellations caused by COVID-19 with the start of Milwaukee Pridefest on Thursday, June 2.

Milwaukee PrideFest kicks off on Thursday, June 2 with a Throwback Thursday Theme. DJ Femme Noir will take the Dance Pavilion Stage at 7 p.m. with new and old Pride anthems.

This year's PrideFest is being held on the Summerfest grounds in June for the first time since 2019. The three day festival will go until Saturday, June 4, and it will include new stages, food vendors and an expanded Health & Wellness area.

People planning to attend the festival expressed their excitement

"I've wanted to go to one and see one a lot like recently, because I came out to my mom and everything so I'm just really excited to go," Janae Curiel of Scottsdale, Ariz. told CBS 58.

Janae and her mother were visiting from Arizona and taking advantage of their stay in Milwaukee by going to the first day of PrideFest

"I think if I would've known that that was happening this weekend, I would've definitely stayed the whole weekend," Janae's mother Kelly said.

The Third Ward was brimming with pride flags and décor, including at the Journeyman Hotel.

"We're hoping that people come here before they head off to PrideFest," Journeyman food and beverage director John Cassanos said. "I'm planning on going over to PrideFest at least for a little bit throughout the weekend so yeah it's an exciting time for everyone."

Tre Rivali restaurant at the Journeyman has a display of pride flags to celebrate the month outside.

"My husband and I are celebrating 31 years," Cassanos said. "It's kind of a nice month to kind of celebrate and be grateful that we've lived the life that we've been able to live."

The last PrideFest in 2019 saw record attendance at just under 46,000 people.

"The festival is going to look different because we have a new footprint we have new stages, we're activating new types of entertainment," said Wes Shaver, the president of Milwaukee Pride Inc.

Shaver hopes the revamping of the festival helps it become an even greater success.

"I honestly think this is going to be the most beautiful PrideFest and I think it's going to be the most representative of what a pride festival should be about."

To support local food pantries, guests can bring 4 canned, non-perishable food items for admission on Thursday from 4 p.m. -6 p.m. And from 4-8pm, guests 21+ older can enjoy Happy Hour that includes 1996 pricing for beer, wine, cocktails, and soda.

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