We Are Family Picnic

in Events

The We Are Family Picnic, an annual LGBT+ community end-of-summer festival and fundraiser, was held annually between 1979-2003. The We Are Family Picnic was hosted by the LGBT+ nonprofit fundraising organization Northern Ohio Coalition Inc. (NOCI), and functioned as NOCI’s primary annual fundraiser. Northern Ohio Coalition Inc. held the first We Are Family Picnic on September 2, 1979 at Meadow Ridge Farm (17305 Mayfield Road), a private farm park in Windsor, Ohio. Tickets to the We Are Family Festival were sold at “local gay establishments,” with proceeds from the picnic contributing to NOCI’s various fundraising activities. The We Are Family Picnic was an instant hit, attracting over 1,200 attendees in its first year. In 1980, NOCI relocated the We Are Family Picnic from Meadow Ridge Farm to its longstanding home at Wildwood Lake Water Park (11200 East River Road) in Columbia Station, roughly 20 miles southwest of Cleveland. The move was immensely popular with festivalgoers, and attendance soared in subsequent years. Festival admission provided picnickers with access to Wildwood Lake’s grounds and amenities, as well as a variety of refreshments (including “all the beer and pop [festivalgoers] could drink”), and a plethora of festival activities (including “swimming, volleyball, baseball, and organized games…nature walks…sunbathing…[and] live shows”). Wildwood Lake, a private water park, contained “an old quarry lake in an area surrounded by woods,” “three waterslides, boats, water walkers, and various other water activities.” Wildwood Lake’s large covered hall also presented opportunities for festivalgoers to congregate, relax, or dance to music spun by popular local DJ’s. By the mid-1980s, the We Are Family Picnic was “considered by many in northeast Ohio’s GLBT community to be the last ‘big fling’ of the summer.” Part of the event’s enduring popularity stemmed from the sense of “community togetherness” it generated between attendees. Greg Lakota, a picnic attendee, noted that the private We Are Family Picnic was an “environment where you can totally be yourself.” At its peak in the mid-1990s, the We Are Family Picnic at Wildwood Lake attracted roughly 2,000-3,000 attendees per year and generated between $12,000-$30,000 in revenue annually for NOCI. The We Are Family Picnic’s 20-year run at Wildwood Lake ended in 2000 when NOCI relocated the festival to a new location, The German-American Cultural Center (7863 York Road) in Parma. The event’s change in venue was largely unpopular with festivalgoers, and attendance dropped sharply following the picnic’s relocation. Attendance again dropped the following year after NOCI changed that event’s date due to scheduling conflicts with other popular LGBT+ community events. The annual We Are Family Picnic remained at the German-American Cultural Center through 2003. The final We Are Family Picnic, held at the German-American Cultural Center in 2003, drew only 100-200 attendees. The following year, NOCI replaced the We Are Family Picnic with a shorter-lived annual We Are Family fundraising bus trip to Fallsview Casino, Niagara Falls.

“We Are Family Picnic – Cleveland 1991.” Stella Schlotsky.

Additional information coming soon.


  • “1979 to 1983 Summerfest, Cleveland.” Pride Museum. (Note: Album and photos depict the We Are Family Picnic. Album and photos are mislabeled as Summerfest, an unrelated event.)
  • “Big Fest Awaits.” High Gear. September 1979. Page 4.
  • “Coalition Planning Festival ’80.” High Gear. June 1980. Page 2.
  • Cudnik, Doreen. “A Mardi Gras Sunday in the Park.” Gay People’s Chronicle. September 12, 1997. Page 1, 12.
  • Glassman, Anthony. “A Generation of News: Many Changes Have Come in Twenty Years of Publishing This Newspaper.” Gay People’s Chronicle. February 4, 2005. Page 5.
  • Glassman, Anthony. “A Sunny Day, But Turnout Light at 25th ‘We Are Family’ Picnic.” Gay People’s Chronicle. August 22, 2003. Page 1, 4.
  • Glassman, Anthony. “AIDS Walk and NOCI Picnic Wrap Up the Summer.” Gay People’s Chronicle. September 22, 2000. Page 1, 5.
  • Glassman, Anthony. “New Date and Rainstorms Lower Picnic Attendance.” Gay People’s Chronicle. August 31, 2001.
  • Harris, Marne. “‘We Are Family’ Picnic Survives Rain.” Gay People’s Chronicle. October 1990. Page 4.
  • Hlad, Dan. “We Are Family Picnic Raises $35,000.” Gay People’s Chronicle. September 17, 1999. Page 1.
  • Howard, Carl. “Gay Fest Gets Good Turnout.” High Gear. October 1979. Page 2, 19.
  • “It’s The Big One – 3000 Gays to Attend Festival ’81.” Action Magazine. 1981. Page 6.
  • Jeanette. “We Are Family – 1981 Edition.” High Gear. October 1981. Page 16.
  • Kasper, Steve. “Festival ’80 Termed Success.” High Gear. November 1980. Page 4.
  • Kirsch, Brian. “24 Years After the First Picnic, NOCI is Still Going Strong.” Gay People’s Chronicle. July 5, 2002. Page 7.
  • Moravatz, Vince. “NOCI’s ‘We Are Family’ Picnic is Fun in the Sun, Water and Woods.” Gay People’s Chronicle. September 25, 1998. Page 1, 5.
  • “NOCI Picnic Sets Record.” Gay People’s Chronicle. November 20, 1992. Page 3.
  • “To Benefit GEAR, Coalition Launches Summer Festival.” High Gear. July-August 1979. Page 7.
  • “Picnic Time.” Action Magazine. August 1981. Page 6.
  • Ray, Mike. “Festival ’81 Wildwood Lake, Ohio.” Metra Magazine. October 1981. Page 14-15.
  • Schlotsky, Stella. “We Are Family Picnic – Cleveland 1991.” YouTube. September 10, 2012.
  • Schneck, Ken. LGBTQ Cleveland. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2018. Page 13.
  • “We Are Family ’83 is Coming.” Action Magazine. June 1983. Page 13.
  • “We Are Family Picnic.” Ohio Pride Magazine. August 1984. Page 2.
  • Wildwood Lake Water Park, Columbia Station Ohio. Facebook group.
11200 East River Road, Columbia Station, Ohio 44028 (formerly Wildwood Lake Water Park).

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