Rainbow rundown: 9 Pride festivals in Wisconsin

0 89

Wisconsin’s pride festivals are bigger than outsiders might think, and it’s because the state has a long history of pushing to accept queer folks and culture.

Many people today don’t realize that Wisconsin was the very first U.S. state to make employment discrimination illegal, giving queer folks more basic human rights. The state even had gay politicians enter official offices before many other states did.  Of course, this all comes after Native Americans celebrated Two-Spirit individuals — that is, Native American folks who don’t adhere strictly to Eurocentric definitions of “male” or “female” — long before the colonists ever arrived in North America. 

Now, this isn’t to say that being queer is unequivocally easy just because someone lives in the Badger State, but it can be comforting to know that one’s state has historically been a trailblazer. That shows today in the sheer number of pride festivals held across the state each summer.

With so many to choose from, it can be hard to select which ones to attend, so we’ve gathered 9 that are definitely worth your time and money this summer.

1. PrideFest Milwaukee

Location: Henry Maier Festival Park (200 N Harbor Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53202)

Date(s): June 6-8, 2024

Cost: $50 for 3-day passes or $18-$25 for single-day passes

Description: Without a doubt, PrideFest Milwaukee is the biggest pride event in Wisconsin. Spanning three days and featuring plenty to do, you’ll leave PrideFest exhausted in the best possible way — that is, having experienced endless queer joy, dancing the days away, eating delicious food, and more. Oh, and PrideFest Milwaukee features some of the biggest queer voices of the moment: music artists like David Archuleta, Icona Pop, and Dixon Dallas will be performing, while internationally beloved drag artists from across the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” franchise like Envy Peru, Alaska, and Violet Chachki will be performing the festival down — boots.

Other aspects of PrideFest Milwaukee to look forward to include its volleyball tournament, health and wellness area, myriad queer vendors (say it with us — “supporting small businesses is sexy”), and more.

Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Pride via Facebook.

2. Kenosha Pride

Location: HarborPark Celebration Place (5501 Calabria Way, Kenosha, WI 53140)

Date(s): June 6, 2024

Cost: Free

Description: Kenosha Pride 2024 is the event’s 12th year celebrating local LGBTQ+ individuals, and it’s bringing even more fun to the table. Based on the event’s official website, applications for vendors, volunteers, and performers are all still being accepted, so it’s not too late to get in on the action.

You also won’t want to miss the Mr. and Miss Kenosha Pride Pageant on Saturday, June 1. Hosted by drag artist Harmony Breeze, this annual event sees two folks claiming well-deserved crowns and the title of Mr. and Miss Kenosha Pride — think prom king and queen but much, much gayer. 

Photo courtesy of Kenosha Pride via Facebook.

3. IMPACT Pride Convention

Location: The Venue (37 S Water Street, Janesville, WI 53545)

Date(s): July 13, 2024

Cost: N/A

Description: LGBTQ+ people have long had to be resourceful and innovative, and this is especially noticeable in Janesville Pride’s IMPACT Pride Convention, which is bringing all the festivities indoors this year.

A truly one-of-a-kind event, IMPACT is helping make pride festivals more accessible and inclusive by containing its events in a venue, which protects folks from the elements and removes obstacles that might hinder attendees with disabilities from getting around and enjoying themselves.

Performers for the indoor festival haven’t been announced yet, and it appears that vendor and volunteer applications are still being accepted. Regardless, you’re bound to have a blast at an event that cares so much about its attendees.

Photo courtesy of Janesville Pride via Facebook.

4. Open Door Pride Festival

Location: Martin Park (207 S 3rd Ave, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235)

Date(s): June 29, 2024

Cost: N/A

Description: Open Door Pride Festival is Door County’s premier Pride Month event, and it sticks to its guns by promoting a lot of local talent. From local vendors selling mouthwatering food, art, and more to the county’s best music performers, the Open Door Pride Festival is a perfect entry into the area’s queer scene, especially if you’re someone looking for community.

The festival’s mission of uplifting its community is even more tangible in its scholarships and awards, which can help uplift people’s collegiate careers and businesses — and we all know queer students and entrepreneurs deserve extra love. Ultimately, if you love live music, supporting small businesses, and even getting your face painted, this is the place for any and all LGBTQ+ folks and allies in Door County, Wisconsin.

Photo courtesy of Open Door Pride via Facebook.

5. Central Wisconsin Pride

Location: Motorama Events Grounds (181705 Stradale Lane, Aniwa, WI 54408)

Date(s): June 13-16, 2024

Cost: $10 

Description: Central Wisconsin Pride celebrates Pride Month like only the Badger State should: with camping, river tubing, and so much more.

That’s right: This multi-day event is extra special because you can camp on the event grounds, and while you’re there, you can experience ribbon dancing, live music and drag performances, dance parties, and more. There’s even a pageant helmed by drag artist DejaVoo, which can qualify you for Miss and Mr. Wisconsin Club. The pageant falls on Friday, June 14, so it’s an excellent way to kick off the weekend and jump directly into the excitement of a good ol’ pride festival.

If you live in Marathon County, check this one out — this festival’s only been around for a few years, but it can continue to grow with more attendees like you!

6. Stevens Point Pride

Location: Dreyfus University Center at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point (1015 Reserve St, Stevens Point, WI 54481)

Date(s): June 14-15

Cost: N/A

Description: Stevens Point Pride is a fun and unique event because, unlike other pride festivals on our list, it’s split into two events: the Pride Crawl on June 14 and Point Pride on June 15. If you’ve heard of bar crawls, you’ll understand the Pride Crawl; it’s a bar-jumping trip through Stevens Point to bond with fellow LGBTQ+ people from the community and support local businesses. It’s a win-win scenario all around.

However, if you’re sober or simply don’t want to partake in the Pride Crawl, worry not — Point Pride is the following day and features more traditional Pride Month activities, including drag story hours, opportunities for folks to try drag for the first time, a glow party, live performances, and more. Oh, and like the IMPACT Pride Convention, Point Pride is indoors this year, so you can have a gay old time rain or shine.

Photo courtesy of Stevens Point Pride via Facebook.

7. Sun Prairie Pride Fest

Location: Wetmore Park (555 North St, Sun Prairie, WI 53590)

Date(s): June 22

Cost: N/A

Description: With a name like Sun Prairie, one would think this city’s pride festival is a sunny, joyous occasion, and they’d be correct. The Sun Prairie Pride Fest unites the city’s LGBTQ+ residents for a day of yoga, drag story time, DJ sets, drag shows, face panting, and more, all under the refreshing Wisconsin sun.

What helps this pride festival stand out is its care for the attendees. It not only had a med tent on site but also has sensory-inclusive activities with individuals with sensory and an “all abilities parade.” You truly love to see it! Oh, and there’s a poetry reading and a magician, so really anything goes here, making this one of the most fun outings you can attend this June.

8. Northwoods Pride Festival

Location: Hodag Park (509 Hodag Park Dr, Rhinelander, WI 54501)

Date(s): June 15, 2024

Cost: N/A

Description: Northwoods Pride is a smaller get-together than other entrees on this list, but that doesn’t make it any less special. In fact, one could easily argue that its charm is a result of its smaller scope, including how it champions local writers, singers, drag artists, and more. There’s something just as special about supporting in your town as there is seeing celebrity performers at PrideFest Milwaukee.

At Northwoods Pride Festival, you can gawk at live drag performances, listen to live music and poetry during the open mic period, enjoy face painting and bubbles with your kids, and more. It’s a swell time, and you’ll be happy you went.

Photo courtesy of Northwoods LGBTQ Community via Facebook.

9. Chances R Pride Fest

Location: Chances R (417 Jay St, La Crosse, WI 54601)

Date(s): June 1, 2024

Cost: $15

Description: Another smaller fest, the Chances R Pride Fest takes place at the titular gay bar in La Crosse but will be held entirely outdoors, so don’t forget to bring a tube of trusty sunscreen. Here, attendees will be treated to all-day performances, including drag shows, comedy, burlesque, and more. There will even be a beer tent outside for those who need to quench their thirst between shows.

Just note that you must be at least 21 years old to attend this festival since it’s hosted by a bar. Otherwise, if you’re in La Crosse and don’t have Saturday afternoon plans, swing by Chances R for a good chance at a good time.

Creative Commons License

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.