Still energized from the overwhelming show of support last year for the local LGBTQ+ community, members of the Wabash Valley Progressives on Saturday will host the second Rainbow Over the Bridge Pride festival on the city’s Riverwalk.
Event coordinator and WVP co-founder Meghan Quinn said when they began preparing for the festival last year — the city’s first-ever Pride event — she wasn’t sure how well it would be received. They hoped for a showing of about 500 people.
In the end, more than 2,000 showed up.
“That alone as pretty incredible,” she said, “but most of all, we saw the need for it. We knew we were planning a fun, lovely day (and) we just had no idea it would mean so much to so many people.
“It was a very emotional day,” Quinn said, “one filled with people tearfully approaching us with gratitude and relief. So many people said they had waited decades to feel supported in their hometown.”
Organizers this year have brought back many favorites from last year, including the Indiana Crossroads Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of drag queen performers based in Lafayette, and Lincoln High School’s own Gay Straight Alliance.
Other pride groups from Spencer and Indianapolis will be on hand as will members of the local Democratic and Libertarian political parties, several local businesses and a variety of food booths, including Thainamite, I’mpressed Coffee, Foster’s Frosters, Kolb’s Culinary Creations, Bee Happy Snow and McAlister’s Deli.
The event will kick off at 4 p.m. with opening ceremonies. Vincennes native Melissa Sandullo and the Neighbor Kids will then kickoff the evening’s lineup of entertainment at 5 p.m.
Returning this year will be the Family Friendly Drag Show from 8-10 p.m., and the evening will culminate with a fireworks show at 10:30 p.m.
But Rainbow Over the Bridge, Quinn said, is about far more than offering a fun lineup of entertainment and events.
“So many people last year spoke of feeling seen and heard by their community,” Quinn said. “They had no idea so much love and support was available to them. This is 2019. The world is changing. People are getting educated and hearts are growing as a result. Loved and accepted people in supportive communities are more successful, more happy, and more likely to stay here.”
So in an effort to continue showing that support and love, WVP has ramped up the availability of LGBTQ+ allies and mental health groups represented this year.
Mental health professionals will be there to talk to those in need as will representatives from Hope’s Voice, a local group dedicated to the victims of domestic and sexual abuse, and Pace Community Action Agency Inc.
The Unitarian Universalist Church from Bloomington will be there this year, Quinn said, as will parishioners with Vincennes’ St. Paul’s Lutheran Church who will be offering “mom hugs” and “dad hugs” to anyone who wants them.
But there will be special emphasis placed on providing assistance to young people.
Last year, Quinn said they were “overwhelmed” with the number of teens who showed up in desperate need of “support, acceptance and resources,” so they’ve tried to be more accommodating of those needs this year.
Quinn’s owner daughter, 17-year-old Taylor Lammert, spearheaded this year the creation of the Youth Pride Committee, a group of young people dedicated to creating a safe and healthy space to meet and support other LGBTQ+ teens.
“Their booth is in a section that includes other teen- and young people-based organizations from the local area,” Quinn said.
“Schools who have Gay Straight Alliances on campus see a significant decrease in teen depression and suicidal tendencies; imagine what expanding this for an entire region can do!”
WVP leaders say local statistics indicate that at least 4,000 LGBTQ+ individuals currently live and work in Knox County. This event, she said, is geared toward giving them a safe place to be who they truly are.
“This is a demographic of people who has felt ignored, unappreciated, unaccepted and unloved here in our community for far too long,” she said. “I think last year people were afraid of what this would be like in our community — how it would be received, how it would be orchestrated — and I think the success of the first festival disseminated a lot of that fear.
“Anyone who came, no matter with what level of reservation, was struck by the love, acceptance, and beauty they witnessed that day.”
As a result, Quinn said WVP was contacted by numerous individuals and vendors who wanted to be involved. In fact, she said they didn’t have to do much recruiting at all. They’ve been “humbled,” she said, by the sheer number of participants this year — nearly three time as many as in 2018.
“And we fully expect this to continue growing as the public becomes more educated and less fearful,” she said. “We encourage people who are scared or hesitant about Pride to attend — to learn, to get out of their comfort zones and challenge themselves to witness how important this day really is to our community.”
In the event of rain, Rainbow Over the Bridge will be moved to the nearby Riverfront Pavilion, 102 N. Second St.
And for more information, visit the event's Facebook page by searching "Rainbow Over the Bridge."