Indy PRIDE, Scott VanKirk

Indy Pride “fosters events that seek to educate, honor the history of the GLBT communities and celebrate the diversity of and create unity, in and between, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight communities,” according to its mission statement. The importance of this mission is evident in its humble beginnings. “The first Pride event was held in a hotel ballroom because members of the community were afraid to hold an outdoors event,” according to Pride board President Scott Vankirk.

“Indy Pride was formed around 1995 or so,” Vankirk says. “The organization almost went bankrupt in 1996. Around 2000, the organization consistently began holding a Pride event in June of each year.” This event, which now includes a parade, festival and musical performance, is how most people know about Indy Pride. Headliners at the concert have included Abigail, Paul Lekaukis, CeCe Penniston, Thea Austin and Kristine W (headlining this year). Attendance has exponentially grown over the years, from an estimated 6,000 in 2002 to 30,000 in 2007.

“More churches and not-for-profit organizations have become involved,” Vankirk says. “Pride has truly pulled the GLBT community together — at least for one weekend of events.”

But the June Pride events aren’t the only Indy Pride initiatives. “Since 2001, Indy Pride has used profits from events to fund scholarships for students. In addition to the annual Pride events, Indy Pride sponsors an evening of GLBT comedy (Laugh OUT Loud), the annual Hoosier 250 Tricycle Races & Silent Auction and a Community Thanksgiving Dinner. Indy Pride is an umbrella organization, which has the Pride of Indy Band, the Pride Bag Ladies and the Chris Gonzalez Library,” Vankirk explains.

“The Pride of Indy Band and Color Guard is Indiana’s only LGBTS instrumental and pageantry ensemble. … The Bag Ladies are men willing to dress in high heels and wear outrageous costumes, who, each year around Halloween, travel from bar to bar soliciting money until the early hours of the morning on what is called The Bag Lady Bus Tour. The Damien Center, the Gregory Powers Direct Emergency Financial Assistance (DEFA) Fund, Indiana Youth Group (IYG), Step Up and the Indiana AIDS Fund all benefit from money raised by The Bag Ladies,” Vankirk says. “Recently, Indy Pride agreed to sponsor the Chris Gonzalez Library. This library, named after community leader Chris Gonzalez, contains over 6,000 LGBT-themed books.”

This year, Indy Pride’s June celebration will include a week’s worth of events. Check out the lineup, beginning June 7, at www.indyprideinc.com.

— Lisa Gauthier

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