A celebration and a safe environment for all gender identities and sexual orientations, Indy Pride, Inc. hosts its annual Indy Pride Festival at Military Park on June 9th.
More than just a party, Executive Director Chris Handberg says the festival is, “A place where for a day people can come from all over the state and just be themselves, without worrying about the criticism, oppression and discrimination of others.”
Handberg was hired less than a year ago in hopes of growing the organization to better meet the needs of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community. Officially established in 1995, Indy Pride, Inc. is an entirely volunteer-based entity which serves the LGBTQ community of central Indiana through leadership development, educational programs and community events. Their mission is to unite and serve its members with inclusivity, equality, strong community connections and awareness of LGBTQ issues. Indy Pride Inc., also arranges a Community Thanksgiving Dinner, scholarship awards, along with collaborating with Circle City Pride Softball, LGBT Film Fest and Pride Volleyball.
In 1981, those who attended the very first Pride event, a dinner at what the Essex House Hotel organized by Justice Inc., wore masks to disguise their identity. During this time, LGBTQ Pride was not prevalent in Indianapolis. It was not until 1988 that the Pride celebration was hosted outside in a public space with 175 attendees. Nearly thirty years later in 2017, more than 50,000 people attended the festival.
“The amount of support Indy Pride Inc., receives from the community is overwhelming,” Handberg says, “The enthusiasm and passion of our volunteers is humbling.”
This year, Indy Pride, Inc. will host the third festival in the nation to go voluntarily smoke free. On account of Indiana’s high smoking rates, Handberg says this is an ambitious initiative. Being a target audience for tobacco companies, the LGBTQ community is disproportionately affected by smoking-related illnesses. According to the the American Lung Association, “The LGBT smoking rate is higher than the national average.” Not only will the festival post signage from the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Council regarding their quit line and resources to prevent and cease smoking, there will also be designated smoking areas which guests will be encouraged to use. “We don’t want to shame those who smoke or use tobacco,” he says, “but we want to promote a healthy lifestyle for our community.”
Attendees can also expect a long list of festivities from talent, more than 200 vendors and a family-fun zone, to animals, music, food and even a health care corridor where visitors can receive screenings and other health information. The festival provides visitors with the opportunity to network and communicate with others without fear of judgment.
Other upcoming Indy Pride Inc. events include: Pet Pride Presented by Elanco, Pride Skate Presented by Adult and Child, Deaf Pride and Music and Movie Night: Sponsored by Chipotle.
Handberg hopes to see Indy Pride Inc. do more educational programming in the future. “We have such a strong and great, vibrant community,” he says, “I would love to see us have all sorts of workshops, group meetings and really build a strong sense of ‘this is our community, this is who we are.”