Show your true colors at Fort Wayne Pride
LGBTQ+ celebration coming to Headwaters for 25th annual event
Fort Wayne’s most expansive LGBTQ+ celebration is returning to Headwaters Park.
Existing for 25 years now, Fort Wayne Pride just keeps getting bigger. On Friday-Saturday, July 22-23, experience all Pride has to offer with entertainment, vendors, and a downtown parade.
A long time coming
Fort Wayne’s Pride festival is the largest celebration of the LGBTQ+ community in the area, but hasn’t always been as embraced as it is today.
In 1998, when the first Pride was held in Freimann Square, about 100 people attended. Back then, members of the community faced much higher degrees of discrimination, and the number of attendees reflected that.
Although reception was not as good in the beginning, director Nikki Fultz said the city of Fort Wayne, and society as a whole, has become more accepting, due to a combination of positive media representation, small-business support, and an increase in straight allies.
In the two-and-a-half decades that Pride has been celebrated in Fort Wayne, it has transformed into a large-scale gathering.
“The festival has just kept growing,” Fultz said, noting, nearly 17,000 attendees are expected to make their way to Headwaters. “The visibility is really important in our community.”
Those familiar with Pride as a nationwide celebration may be curious as to why Fort Wayne’s festivities take place in July, rather than during National Pride Month in June.
“When we moved to Headwaters East in 2005, there were no open weekends in June,” Fultz said. Due to the array of other downtown festivals that month, like Germanfest and Greek Fest, and BBQ RibFest in July was the most available time to have it.
That’s alright with Fultz, though, as having it a month later has its benefits. Many of the larger Pride festivals, like the one in Chicago, are held in June. Having it in July keeps the date open for performers and attendees alike.
“June can be a month of reflection,” she said, explaining that having it in July can be a time for celebration.
What to expect
Fort Wayne Pride boasts to be “one of the best parties of the year.” This year’s event will utilize both sides of Headwaters, “allowing for the addition of a nonprofit resource fair, a second entertainment stage, and a better space for workshops and KidSpace area,” according to their website.
The event kicks off Friday from 7 p.m. to midnight, welcoming three local musicians to the main stage, Lightshore, L80’s Night, and DJ Too Quick. The last hour of the night will be a dance party, with food and beer available throughout the evening.
The festivities continue Saturday morning with the Pride March at 11:15 a.m., the first of its kind in a few years.
Open to all supporters of the community, the march is “a reflection of LGBT pride,” according to Fultz. Marchers will walk through downtown, but because of construction, the path will be partly on the street and partly on sidewalks.
After the Pride March, the fun resumes at Headwaters, with Vendor Market opening at noon, featuring more than 150 businesses and nonprofits. The market is full this year, so there will be plenty to browse.
On the west side of the park, you will find the nonprofit resource fair, which aims to provide helpful LGBTQ+ resources and workshops. Additionally, there is the KidSpace for children under 12, which includes games, prizes, crafts, drag story time, character appearances, and a moonwalk.
The west side of the park also contains yard games and the community stage. From noon-7 p.m., attendees can bear witness to free performances here, beginning with Bring It Fire Rangers, a mental health advocacy group, followed by performers She Shed, KC Ramone, a family friendly drag show, Set the Hook, and Home by 10.
Over at Headwaters East, the main stage will also be filled with entertainment. For nearly 12 hours straight, local and regional performers will be taking the stage, including Alicia Pyle, Vion’Te The Voice, Adam Araque, Addison Agen, and DJ Lozar.
The real fun begins at 9 p.m. with the Drag Show, featuring 2022 Pride Ambassador Kylie Aphrodite along with Della Licious, who will be marrying couples on stage.
It appears this will be an exciting night for all who attend.
Pride is a fantastic party, but it means much more than that. It serves as an important venue to display individuality in a way that means so much to members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“For me, every year its being a part of something that brings joy to people,” Fultz said.
She describes Pride as a place for love and joy that gives people the space to be their true, authentic selves.
“(At Pride) everywhere I look I see joy,” she said. “There are so many people that look forward to this.”