Thousands head downtown for Indy Pride parade and festival

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Thousands of people spent Saturday in downtown Indianapolis for the Circle City Pride Festival.

Organizers say the day is all about celebrating the LGBTQ community in central Indiana and continuing to push for progress.

Floats made their way down Massachusetts Avenue Saturday morning for the parade. More than 170 floats participated in this year's event.

"Once a year for Indiana, people come here and they can be who they want to be, celebrate who they are," said festival director HR Jung.

The parade and festival at Military Park are the culmination of a week's worth of pride events.

"It's awesome to see solidarity that we have," said Grant Helms, board member of Indy Pride.

Festival goers and organizers tell FOX59 the event brings a message of inclusivity two years after Indiana's RFRA debate made national headlines.

"The queer community felt it and we were very pained by it but fortunately we rose back up," said Ari Applewhit, who attended the festival.

"Are we where we want to be?" Jung said. "No, not yet. But we’re going to get there. As long as we keep moving that line, that’s the most important thing."

Jung and other members of the LGBTQ community say the support they are getting from local leaders goes a long way. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry both walked in Saturday's parade.

"I’m just so glad, happy, appreciative that we have come so far so fast," Helms said. "That’s just so special."

Dozens of organizations and businesses also joined in along the parade route.

"Very awesome that we all care for each other and it's one big happy family," said Patricia Kirk, a festival attendee.

"It’s wonderful to be in a large metropolitan city that recognizes the value of a diverse population," Jung said. "That, to me, is a wonderful thing."

Remembering the Pulse victims 

The Indy Pride Parade coincides with the one year anniversary of the Pulse attack, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. On June 12, 2016, 49 people were killed inside the gay nightclub in Orlando.

A group of participants in Indy's Pride parade wore black t-shirts and carried a sign that said "REMEMBER" in honor of the victims.

"When I think about it, it saddens me so much I get goosebumps because I can't imagine people out just having a great time and for them to lose their lives like that it truly saddens me," said Rima Shahid, one of the people who was part of the memorial to the Pulse victims. "I was honored and touched to be able to walk in that and just remember that unfortunate incident."