All this month on In The Wings our topic has been activism, and this week we’re sitting down with Lois Ratzow, one of this years PrideFest Pride Award recipients and the fun-loving founder of Milwaukee’s Old Timers Party, an annual New Years Day party that brings in around 500 people from Milwaukee’s LGBT community.
When it comes to having a good time and making people laugh, the Milwaukee-native has 76 years of experience, “I’m a people person, I like to gather people up and we laugh and belch and fart and you name it,” she laughs.
And founding Milwaukee’s Old Timers Party – one of the largest and longest-running LGBT events here in Milwaukee – Lois has become quite the figure in the community.
Growing up on Milwaukee’s East Side, Lois started bartending in the 60s at some of Milwaukee’s earliest gay and lesbian bars, quickly becoming a well-known character with her crazy antics, fun-loving personality, and a laugh that could put a smile on anyones face.
And in 1978, in a simple effort just to hang out with friends and have a good time, she started something among her group of friends called the ‘Old Timers Party,’
“It was New Years Day and I said, ‘This is nice… What do you think? [Should we] meet every year?’ and they all said ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah!’ and it just kept going and got bigger and bigger.”
And now, with the party turning 40 years old and drawing in a crowd of hundreds every year, this month she was honored at the Milwaukee PrideFest Pride Awards for bringing the LGBT community together,
“I didn’t need to be recognized, [but] I was really proud of that, I mean, that was overwhelming,” she explains, “I’m just a gay woman, that’s it. I just don’t like to put a label on anything. I just like people. Period.”
Hear more from Lois below: