For 30 years, PrideFest Milwaukee has been produced by volunteers. Our team is dedicated to the notion that our vibrant and strong LGBT community deserves to be celebrated. We gather in honor of those before us who struggled and sacrificed 100 times harder than we have had to, and for those following in our footsteps, who will be stronger and more brave than we could ever imagine being.
The team behind the scenes has changed over the years, and with each interested and dedicated volunteer, the power of Pride grows that much stronger. We’ve been honored to enjoy the talents of so many individuals lending a hand to launch an amazing PrideFest each year.
Meet your PrideFest Production team
Kate Sherry – Festival Producer
Kate Sherry returns this season to reprise her role as Festival Producer at PrideFest Milwaukee.
PrideFest 2017 marks the third time Sherry has served as festival leadership, after two seasons as co-producer in 2014 and 2015. It is Kate’s ninth year volunteering with the festival.
Kate joined the Milwaukee Pride Board of Directors in 2009 and later served as marketing and communications director. Last year, she volunteered in the PrideFest production office, but looks forward to returning to the complexities and challenges of a leadership role.
“On a serious note,” adds Sherry, “I do come from a theatre background. I spent years performing from New York to Chicago and back, and have been fortunate enough to work here in Milwaukee with some amazing directors and actors. PrideFest, for me, has been it’s own version of working on a great theatrical performance.”
“I get to experience the celebration like everyone else does, but I also get to see just how it’s all made. I enjoy the production aspect of it all, and working with a team behind the scenes, in front of the scenes, whatever it takes to put on this amazing show. And if people would ever ask me what I did for the summer, I’d love to be able to gesture out towards the crowds, out towards the families strolling with children, the lights, the music, the laughter and smiles on the grounds and say THIS. This is what I did this summer.”
“I’m not going to lie, it is so much work. But the people who put in so much of their time to pull this off year after year are amazing. They are the ones making it a magical time in more ways than one, and they can never be thanked enough.”
Luke Olson – Director, Operations
Luke Olson has always had big dreams. The biggest one, being able to drive a golf cart around Henry Maier Festival Park, finally came true in 2012. He got the opportunity to serve as the Operations Director by harassing the right people at the right time. Since that year’s festival, he has been the link between PrideFest and Milwaukee World Festival. The Operations Director handles logistics for the festival, including managing the layout of the grounds, arranging the fireworks display, and securing the permits for the festival. Luke has enjoyed developing relationships with Summerfest staff, leaders from the other ethnic festivals and city officials, along with all the vendors he coordinates with to make PrideFest happen.
“So many people don’t realize how much goes into putting a festival like PrideFest on. We’re working year round so the community can show up to the festival and have a great experience.”
Luke has a B.A. in Journalism and Media Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is the Assistant Director of Registration Services for the UW-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education and also works security at LaCage Niteclub.
Mark Gerber – Director, Entertainment
PrideFest is an integral part of the community. It’s also a safe place where everyone can be themselves.
It takes a lot of work and effort to put on a festival this large. But, with our great group of PrideFest volunteers, we continue to outdo ourselves year after year. And over the years, we have become one big family.
I brought my daughter Samantha to PrideFest in 2000 and was able to ride a float in the parade with her. To this day, we still talk about that experience. She was intrigued with all the diverse people that she saw and met that day. Hopefully, that experience helped her along the way in accepting the diverse group of people I now call family and friends.
Based on my experience in concert production and promotion, I was approached in 2007 to join the PrideFest Production Team. I ran the old Miller Mainstage prior to its demolition. After a brief hiatus, I returned in April 2012 as Director of Entertainment. Even joining the festival that late in the year, we pulled off PrideFest with the highest attendance ever-to-date at the time. My daughter Amanda and partner Shawn joined my team in 2013.
For 2016, I have been asked to oversee festival programming as well. My team is absolutely ready for these changes and new challenges. With all the friends and family involved, I know 2016 is going to be bigger and better than ever.
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” C.S. Lewis
Tony Snell Rodriguez — Director, Security
Tony is a longtime human rights activist, author, and community organizer.
Over the years, Tony has served as an LGBTQ community spokesperson while organizing initiatives and demonstrations, including an infamous trip to Bob Jones University; pride events in Columbia, Greenville, and Myrtle Beach; the historic inclusion of S.C. Pride in the Columbia St. Patrick’s Day Parade; and state senate passage of a hate crime bill protecting sexual orientation.
In 1998, Tony was interviewed by the New York Times in a groundbreaking, front-page story about LGBTQ political organizing in the South. Demanding transgender inclusion, he was instrumental in the crafting and passage of the City of Columbia Human Rights Ordinances—first in the state and notable in the deep South. Tony has also served as a founding member of both the Equality Federation (a national group of LGBTQ organizations) and the F.B.I. Community Engagement Council.
Tony joined the PrideFest Milwaukee Production Team as director of security and serves as a member of the City of Milwaukee Equal Rights Commission. Tony, a Spanish-American, is happily married to Dr. W. Zhang and proud to now call Milwaukee their home.