Greenwood Pride Festival returns for biggest year yet

At the annual Greenwood Pride Festival, organizers want to create a place where everyone feels comfortable.

Families, individuals, gay, straight, any race or belief system — the event is a celebration of diversity spanning the whole community.

But most of all, it’s just a ton of fun.

“You don’t have to be LGBTQ. It’s a place you can come and just be you, free of judgment, have a good time in the park and feel seen,” said John Michael Jones, founder and assistant director of the Greenwood Pride nonprofit.

Greenwood Pride Festival returns this weekend, promising a diverse and engaging day of family-friendly entertainment aimed at bringing all people together. Organizers have lined up everything from live music, food trucks and a beer and wine garden to drag shows and on-site health screenings.

People can take a hot air balloon ride, play carnival games, and even get married in an official ceremony.

Now in its third year, the festival offers the opportunity to connect with other people while having a great time.

“People have seen what it is. They understand what Greenwood Prides is. It’s a free festival for people who may not be able to afford tickets somewhere else,” said Suzanne Fortenberry, executive director of Greenwood Pride.

Greenwood Pride was founded in 2018 as a way to organize LGBTQIA+ Pride events locally, with a goal to inspire, educate, commemorate and celebrate the diversity of the community. The first festival was staged in 2021 at Craig Park before moving to its current home at Woodman Park last year.

In doing so, they found a hidden gem of a park that perfectly suits their needs, Fortenberry said.

Organizers have worked closely with city officials, particularly the parks department, who have been incredibly helpful in assisting with planning the festival.

“The community has been completely supportive,” Fortenberry said. “I’m grateful for all of the support, from the mayor all the way down to the Unity Club at Greenwood High School.”

Where last year’s event was a weekend-long celebration, organizers have focused on a single day of festivities for 2023. But that’s not to say Greenwood Pride ‘23 is smaller.

“Last year, we threw spaghetti at the wall. We tried all kinds of things. Now, we know what sticks,” Fortenberry said.

For example, organizers saw how popular the bounce houses were with kids at the festival, so they’ll have four there for children to ping-pong around in. Face painting, story time and a “Kids Kamp” with various activities will be available.

People can officially tie the knot at Pride Weddings setup. Participants sign up for a five-minute wedding ceremony with an officiant who will sign legal marriage licenses, all organized by Photog Boss Babe. Those who exchange their vows get photos, a Pride decorative marriage license and Pride champagne toasting glasses for $150, which will all be donated to Greenwood Pride.

About 115 vendors are scheduled to set up booths with a wide range of offerings, from artisan goods to pet items to candy. The hot air balloon is back, offering birds-eye views of Greenwood.

Mallow Run Winery and MashCraft Brewing will have special Pride-themed offerings — Equality wine and Pride deLuxe beer, as well as other beer and wine, for the 21-and-over crowd. Food trucks will provide a wide variety of food options.

Entertainment will be ongoing throughout the afternoon. Performers such as the Indiana Crossroads Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Blessing, Drag Conquers Hate and Drag Eleganza finale will grace the main stage all day.

“They’re all from Indiana. With all of the heat surrounding drag performance these days, we really wanted to show our local drag entertainers we support them,” Jones said.

Musical acts such as Anneliese & Ali, Troubadours of Divine Bliss, Like Mother Like Daughter and Dale Bitner will bring rock, folk, country, R&B and more to the main stage. People can feel the big band rhythm of the Geeks & Grooves, while kids can get crazy to the fun, funky family-friendly tunes of Allie Jean.

“We’re excited about giving a festival to the community that’s free to come in, free entertainment, something for the kids to do, and it’s fun,” Fortenberry said. “It’s for all people.”

The festival also serves as a vehicle to connect people in the LGBTQ+ community, and the public in general, to important resources and services.

A health hub will provide services such as health testing, HIV/AIDS screenings, information about mental health and more.

“Part of our mission is offering services to the community. For people to come in and get tested for anything, that’s what we want to do,” Fortenberry said.

The summertime festival is the centerpiece of Greenwood Pride, but the organization has looked to increase its presence in the community year-round.

The group hosts family skating parties at Franklin Skate Club, and hope to do yoga and self-defense classes. Recently, Greenwood Pride started a grief support group for LBGTQ+ individuals.

“My partner passed away in 2016 unexpectedly,” Jones said. “Traditional grief share groups, most of them are religious-based. A lot of them don’t value my relationship the same as theirs. This was something I wanted to do.”

They’ve organized a monthly drag event at Bar Louie in Greenwood, and promote Luxe Event Center’s drag queen bingo.

“We have more of a name this year, because so many people were here last year, and we’ve done so many other events around the city,” said Denise Lee, board member of Greenwood Pride.