INDIANAPOLIS - Tens of thousands of people once again attended Indy Pride Fest to celebrate LBGQT community. For the second straight year, the day-long festival took place at Military Park.
The festival is the largest gathering for LBGQT+ people in Indiana.
"We’ve fought for a lot of things over the years and through the decades really," said Indy Pride board president Jeremy Turner.
While the community continues to fight for equal rights on national and state issues, Turner said efforts also focus on improving other aspects of life, too.
"Consent becomes a bigger part of the conversation as we move forward," Turner said. "We also put a lot more focus on substance abuse that has happened in our community.
The festival can be a time to re-charge the batteries before working to make progress.
Another issue on the minds of leaders in the community is mental health.
"LBGT+ youth are at very high risk for self harm and suicide," Turner said. "We have high rates of substance abuse we need to address. "We are in the middle of the opioid epidemic as a culture right now."
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for Indiana has a booth at the festival each year. Saturday was the first year the organization was also able to walk in the Cadillac Barbie Pride Parade.
“We’ve seen a shift where people are having open and honest dialogues around their mental health," said AFSP's area director, Kelsey Steuer. "If they need help or know a friend is struggling, they are reaching out and helping other people too."
Many people who attend the festival said they go to simply show they support the LBGTQ community.
The festival at the park lasted 12 hours, but did shutdown early in the afternoon due to severe weather.
“In about 20 minutes, everybody was out of the park," said Indy Pride executive director, Chris Handberg. "We have a very very safe evacuation. Nobody was hurt that we are aware of and I’m very very proud of our entire team."
The evacuation started as an option before leaders made it mandatory. Visitors were able to take shelter in several nearby buildings and return to the festival 30 minutes after the last threat of severe weather had passed.