The celebration is generally held during the third weekend of July.
The event is an amalgamation of two LGBT events that had originally been separate, distinct events:
The Pride march and Rally were originally organized by the now defunct GALVanize organization, an LGBT group; The MAGIC Picnic was started by the late Rodney Scheel who owned and operated the Hotel Washington complex of night clubs (which included the establishments The Club DeWash, The New Bar, Rods, The Barbers Closet, etc.) The picnic is traditionally held on the third weekend of July although that has been shifted in some years to avoid conflicts with other regional gay events, such as the Gay Games in 2006 when the picnic was held on the second weekend of July. The picnic is traditionally held at Brittingham Park at the junction of Park Street and West Washington Avenue in Madison. The acronym MAGIC stands for Madison Area Gay Interim Committee and was also formed partially in response to Anita Bryant's anti-gay campaign of the late 1970s/early 1980s. The MAGIC picnic was also closely associated with the local and national gay volleyball league which usually held a tournament in Madison on the same weekend as the MAGIC picnic
In October of 1987, Madison residents Pam Jacobson and Tim O'Brien were separately attending the March on Washington. Upon returning to Madison, Jacobson explored the possibility of organizing a local march, and began searching for others to help organize the event. At the same time, O'Brien was also discussing the idea of organizing a march. Mutual friends connected O'Brien and Jacobsen, and their meeting resulted in the formation of the Madison Pride March Committee.
It was during the first committee meeting that the name GALVanize (Gay and Lesbian Visibility Alliance) was selected. During GALVanize's existence as a group, its goal was to increase awareness about the number of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals in Madison, to work for their civil rights, and to form coalitions with other minority groups in Madison.
GALVanize held two marches for Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights in Madison. The first was held in the spring of 1988, the second four years later in 1992. Following that, the March evolved into a more traditional Pride Parade and was consolidated into the Pride Weekend in 2002. Pride Weekend traditionally consists of the OutReach dinner on Friday, UW GLBT Alumni breakfast on Saturday morning, the MAGIC picnic on Saturday afternoon followed by the Pride Parade on Sunday morning and a repeat of the picnic on Sunday afternoon.