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Indy Pride, one of the largest LGBT events in Midwest, has humble roots

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Source: Indiana Historical Society

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – People pour into Downtown Indy, coming from all over the Midwest, to celebrate Circle City Pride. It is now, one of the largest pride festivals in this part of the country.

But when it began, it looked a lot different.

“It was mostly dinners and people that showed up for it came kind of incognito, they would wear masks and what not because they didn’t want, if anybody took photographs of the event, they didn’t want those leaked out to the public,” said H.R. Jung, Indy Pride Festival Director.

Far from proud, a small group of gay friends organized a private dinner. That dinner turned out to be the first Indy pride event.

“That was the onset of the AIDS crisis so a lot of people were getting together because they had to get together and that’s how they supported each other because people were dying of AIDS and they couldn’t take care of themselves,” said Jung.

But as being gay became more mainstream, so too did Indy’s pride festival.

“Through the years, it’s grown and it’s moved to different locations; we’ve been out on the canal, we’ve been up on Mass Ave. where we closed off the street and did a fair there,” said Jung.

Last year’s Circle City Pride had the largest attendance ever with more than 110,000 people. Organizers attribute the spike in attendance to opposition against Indiana’s controversial religious freedom law.

“Others are coming because this is their day to express who they are and maybe they don’t live in Indianapolis where we get the privilege to live a bit more progressive. They may come from a rural area where this is the one time of year where they get to be who they are,” said Jason Hinson-Nolen, the President of Indy Pride.

The festival, while rooted in LGBT pride is open to all, complete with a section for families.

“As we develop more relationships with more people, they realize in the end, gay, straight, whatever, we’re all just people, we’re all just humans, we all just want to love somebody else,” said Hinson-Nolen.

The pride parade begins at 10 a.m. Saturday on the north end of Mass Ave. The festival kicks off an hour later and runs till 7 pm. Entry is free, but there is a $5 suggested donation.


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