Quick Q&A With Indy Pride Director Chris Handberg

Indy Pride’s executive director fills us in on what to expect and how to observe the city’s week-long celebration of the LGBTQ community.
Late last June, Chris Handberg started as the first-ever executive director for Indy Pride. The 2018 event, which the organization began planning in August, will be the first time he’s led a festival in this role. After nearly a year spent developing programs and building community partnerships, Chris expects as many as 60,000 people to show up at Historic Military Park for the Indy Pride Festival on Saturday, June 9. We spoke with the man in charge of this year’s party about what to expect during Pride and the days leading up to the celebration.


There’s more to Pride than the main show on June 9. What else are you looking forward to this week?
All of our events are fantastic, but I want to highlight three. The first is the 35th anniversary of our community picnic, which will be this Sunday at noon in Garfield Park. The first Pride gathering in 1982 was held at the now-closed Essex Hotel. The next year, they moved to a park and had a picnic. Those people were brave. It was a time of great hostility, when it wasn’t cool to be gay, and people were mocked by their family and friends. We honor them by continuing the community picnic tradition.

Then on Monday at 6 p.m., we’ll have the first Deaf Pride. Central Indiana has a large community of people who are both LGBTQ and deaf or hearing-impaired, so they’re gathering to celebrate their lives and their queerness.

We also have #TransGlam on Wednesday night at The Tube Factory. This will be a great party that’s similar to a prom, and all ages are welcome.

What can people expect to be different about Pride this year?
We’ve partnered with the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission of Indiana to go smoke-free for the festival. Indiana has extremely high smoking rates compared to the rest of the nation, especially in the LGBTQ community. Secondhand smoke really does diminish the experience of those who choose not to smoke. We’re not out to shame people who smoke or say they can’t come: They’re absolutely welcome. We just ask guests to only use tobacco products in one of our designated areas.

Last year was the first time you sold tickets for Pride. How do you think that went?
The majority of attendees didn’t mind paying $5 to get into this massive, day-long festival. For those who do struggle to pay, we have lots of solidarity tickets available through different LGBTQ organizations at the gate.

What part of Pride are you looking forward to most?
Our nighttime experience, “Pride at Night,” is going to be amazing. We have Indy’s biggest drag show, hosted by Candis Cayne and featuring a mix of local and national queens. Many of them have been on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Then we’ll segue into an EDM show with fire dancers.

Do you have any tips for this year’s Pride-goers?
Parking is always an issue, but we’ve partnered with a shuttle service that will pick guests up from the designated lot, take them to the parade, then on to the festival and back to their cars when they’re done for the night. Shuttles will run every seven to 10 minutes. Parking reservations should be made ahead of time using the information on our website.

Is there anything about Pride that you think would surprise someone new to the festival?
Newcomers are usually most shocked by the overall diversity of who’s there. You have a wide array of personalities who celebrate as a community. People from so many different backgrounds gather together, and for that day, become a family.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever seen happen at Pride?
I’m amazed by how hard the volunteers work. These are people who have day jobs, and some of them use all their vacation time for this. They’re tired and sweaty, but they still get it done. I have so much respect for people who are willing to give so much to our community.

Are there any challenges you think the festival is facing?
The biggest challenge we’re running into now is that we’re out of vendor and parade space. Participants are used to signing up at the last minute, but we’ve had to turn away a lot of high-profile people this year.

What are your goals for Indy Pride over the next few years?
I want to have a festival that propels us to a place where we can support other LGBTQ organizations, especially those who don’t normally have a voice. I want to use our privilege to lift others up and let them tell their stories. I want the community that’s built on festival day to last throughout the year.