By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jun 09, 2023 at 10:01 AM Photography: Meg Strobel

Festival City is hopping this summer! OnMilwaukee's Festival Guide is brought to you by Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. Escape the heat and step inside! 

PrideFest may have wrapped up last weekend, but the 2023 festival still has plenty of reason to party and celebrate as organizers announced this week that the the LGBTQ+ event – the largest of its kind in Wisconsin – broke its three-day attendance record for the second consecutive year. 

Milwaukee Pride Inc. revealed that the festival – which ran June 1-3 at Henry Maier Festival Park – drew 42,603 attendees this year. That total is almost 4,000 more than last year's post-pandemic return to June, which previously marked PrideFest's three-day attendance record. The highest attendance total for PrideFest overall registered in 2019, with just short of 46,000 attendees coming through the Summerfest grounds gates; that year's festival, however, featured a fourth day of the event as opposed to its now-standard three-day format. 

“PrideFest as a whole struck a different chord this year,” said Wes Shaver, President and CEO of Milwaukee Pride Inc., in a release. “It’s hard to put into words, but it’s clear to me that PrideFest’s appeal as a festival, in its most base and simple form, is the widest it’s ever been. Tens of thousands of people flooded Henry Maier Festival Park to not just support LGBT people and spaces, but to participate in them and the music, dancing, food, and fun.” 

As for the music, dancing, food and fun, the more-than-40,000 PrideFest attendees found more than 400 entertainers and stage crews working to put on the three-day extravaganza – ranging from big-name music acts to Vegas-level magicians to drag and DJ shows and an overall greater local stage presence, tallying a 45 percent increase in Milwaukee or Wisconsin-based performers across the festival's five lakefront stages.

In addition to record-number attendees, PrideFest also drew a record-number of vendors with 197 found on its grounds over the three days. And throughout the event, the festival gathered 2,500 lbs. of non-perishable food items to donate to Vivent Health's Food Pantry and hosted 50 local health and social organizations in its informative Health & Wellness Area, furthering PrideFest as a party with an impact. 

“PrideFest 2023 was a smashing success," said Don Smiley, CEO of Milwaukee World Festival Inc., in the release. "It was a great start to the festival season on Milwaukee’s lakefront. Great music, food and beverage was enjoyed by the record setting crowd. PrideFest once again showed the spirit of Milwaukee and beyond. Organizers should be proud of the impact they leave in the City of Festivals."

PrideFest is always marks a huge and wonderfully joyous start to the Great Milwaukee Summer – and now we have the numbers to prove it. And indeed it's only the start to all the festival fun coming to Brew City these upcoming months. For the rest of the Milwaukee summer festival slate, click here – and for more information on Pride initiatives throughout June (aka Pride Month) and the rest of the year, check out Milwaukee Pride's website

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.