INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Last year, Indy Pride Fest moved to a new location and it was supposed to be the first accurate count for attendance, but a gap around the perimeter caused ticket sales to be much lower than expected. This year, new security is in place to address the issue.
Leaders with Indy Pride have always felt the crowd has grown, especially when looking back at the first LGBTQ community event in 1982. The problem though is the estimate may not be too accurate.
“We’ve never had a metric other than bar sells, before we started selling tickets, to gage our attendance," said Indy Pride Executive Director, Chris Handberg. "We’ve been told by one entity we’ve had 100,000 people. We’ve been told my another we’ve had 75,000, and another entity has also said 75,000."
Handberg, who is close to finishing his first full year as the organization's first full-time employee, said there can be a lot to gain for knowing those numbers.
Something that should be able to figure with the event taking place at Military Park, next to IUPUI, for the second consecutive year.
"Having a concrete number helps us on all the planning stages," Handberg said. "From port-a-potties to insurance to permits. Having that accurate number is not about bragging or anything, it’s just about good planning."
Tickets cost $5 and there is a $50 option to get access to some VIP areas. Last year, ticket sales were way down than expected, according to Handberg.
Officials ended up finding out there was a gap in the festival's perimeter fence, which likely allowed thousands of people to get in without purchasing a ticket.
When the organization went back to using bar and alcohol sales, estimates put the crowd at roughly 65,000 visitors.
The festival has contracted with a new fencing company this year to make sure guests flow in and out at the gate. There is also a second fence inside the park.
Both are seen as a form of enhancements to security.
“Don’t think of it as a big security thing," said Handberg. "We have the same amount of officers on site that we had last year and I’m fairly confident we will have a safe festival for everybody."
Vendors setting up their booths Friday in advance are pleased to have the festival at the park, as they are no longer rushed to setup quickly Saturday morning before the festival starts.
“I like this location, said LGBTQ romance author, Brooke Baker, who writes under the name of Bru Baker. "I like that it’s fenced off. It’s easier for us. We feel comfortable leaving things here overnight."
Vendors are told their items will be safe as security works Friday night and into Saturday morning at the park.
Fencing will also be used to designate two smoking areas, as the festival is the third of its kind in the country to go smoke-free, according to the leader of Indy Pride.
"I really hope people see that move as a step of leadership for not just the festival, but the larger community," Handberg said. "Indiana has very high smoking rates and tobacco use rates, especially in the LBGTQ community."
The festival begins Saturday with the Cadillac Barbie Indy Pride Parade, which starts at 10 a.m. on Massachusetts Avenue.
Festivities at the park go from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Local musicians will provide live music throughout the day.