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On Thursday, August 10th, members of the Indy Pride community met to discuss, reflect, and offer solution-based feedback on Circle City IN Pride 2017. While challenges at this year’s events were discussed, the tone of those present was overwhelmingly positive. Members strongly indicated their support of the move to Military Park while acknowledging the growing pains. Overall, CCINP 2017 was a great success–people from all over the state and region came together for one day where they could be themselves, confident in the support of the community, with the freedom to celebrate Pride in its many forms.

What Went Well

Those attending the town hall agreed the following were some of  the strengths of CCINP 2017:

The parade was a great success; the line-up and flow of the parade went smoothly and was a highlight for those in attendance with over 170 units. The consensus at the town hall favored the reversal of the traditional parade route.

  1. Military Park as a location was enthusiastically received. While the walk to the park was long, once there, people enjoyed the space, the shade, and the community feel.
  2. Volunteers. Though volunteers are always needed, those from our community who participated and worked hard are the reason we have Pride. Some were there from the early morning into late at night making sure that the event was ready for the public. We owe them more than our thanks, we owe them our sincere gratitude.
  3. Accessibility. The Mayor’s Advisory Council on Disability recognized the hard work of Elizabeth Longcore and the Indy Pride team with the Accessibility Award at the 2017 for their work in ensuring that everyone who wanted to participate in activities, could.
  4. The family fun zone was a much needed addition to the festival. Welcoming children and families to participate in the celebration will continue in the coming years.

Attendance Numbers and Profit
Reporting the numbers of attendees has become one of the most interesting parts of the festival debrief. In the past, the number of attendees was estimated by officials from the city but there
were no definitive measures in place to ensure the accuracy of this number. For the first time in Indy Pride’s history, we have a way to assess our attendance. At first glance, the number of people who attended using the data point of ticket sales is shocking because it is dramatically lower than past estimates. The total number of tickets sold were around 24,000 without counting vendor passes (each vendor received 8 in/out passes), volunteers, children who attended for free, and a small percentage who may have walked in without paying. However, that is just the beginning of the nuance which is festival attendance.

If you were at the festival, I am sure you are reading that number and saying to yourself, “there is no way only 25,000 people attended.” The same internal conversations have been had among the Indy Pride board. In contrast with this data, representatives from the city of Indianapolis estimate 110,000, which aligns with past experience and, adding more questions, professional organizers and event planners who work in Military Park estimate 50,000-75,000. On top of these vastly different accounts, concession sales were up by 40% (which had been a measure of success and attendance in the past). If we isolate concession sales from year-to-year, since it is the only consistent data point, CCINP 2017 likely had the highest attendance ever even at the lower “real” number.

Finding a path to reconcile the different perspectives on festival attendance has not been easy, but here are some possible explanations. First, this was the first year tickets were sold to the event which increased revenue to better serve our community. Since this was the first time this occurred, there were learning experiences surrounding entry procedures and ticket sales. Second, this was the first time we were in Military Park. As hard as our volunteer coordinators planned, the reality of efficiently welcoming our attendees was different than envisioned. Because of this reality, at times, entry into the festival felt chaotic. In the midst of the excitement and confusion, attendees were waved in without paying fees, sometimes en masse. Third, due to two acts of sabotage by a member of our own community, the community was unable to register as volunteers for our events and we found ourselves short-handed.

The final estimate of attendees we, as an organization, are comfortable releasing is 35,000-40,000. There are those in the community who attended the event who will undoubtedly see this number as very conservative. For the sake of transparency and serving our members, we must report this figure because it is what the concrete data points to. In the end, the estimated number of attendees does not define an experience at Circle City IN Pride. Confidence, the freedom to be oneself, and community should be the measure of success. If that is taken into account, 2017 was the best festival yet.

With accurate data on festival attendance, we will be better positioned to budget in the future. CCINP 2017 budgets were based on an attendance number of 100,000 people which leads to higher fees for critical services. Moving forward, we will be able to use a more accurate number which will reduce costs. That being said, this year while revenue rose, so did unexpected expenses. For instance, at the last minute we were required to staff bartenders because those who were scheduled for free were unable to meet their commitments. As of August, 2017, Circle City Indy Pride 2017 profited $43,000.  In the Spring of 2018, an annual report with financial details will be released. Internally, there have been many discussions about reducing costs to increase profit which will better serve the community for the 2018 CCINP.

Learning Opportunities

Those attending the town hall agreed the following were growth areas for 2018:

  1. Lines, lines, everywhere there’s lines. From entry points, to bar tickets, and bar lines, this was a major concern for festival attendees which negatively impacted their experience. Compared to past events, CCINP 2017 had more bartenders than before, yet, lines were persistent. We have spoken with White River State Park and are actively working on solutions which will significantly improve 2018’s festival for both a more conducive entry and efficient bar experience. Many of these ideas are still in progress, but we are excited to share them with the community at a later date.
  2. Cabana and FastPass experiences were not ideal. In fact, that is an understatement. Unfortunately, there was a break down in the management system, resulting in some waiting longer than expected. Several external factors contributed to this misstep which have been identified and we are working to greatly improve for 2018.
  3. The food lines were equally atrocious despite us having more food vendors in a centralized location. This challenge teaches us that we need even more food options than anticipated since we all like to eat and drink. We have already started recruiting additional vendors in this category for next year. Additionally, we are researching alternative food vendor fee structures that may entice more vendors to get involved with our event.
  4. This year, we had nearly the same number of registered volunteers for our events over the course of the week as we did last year (2016 was a record signup year). However, due to two instances of digital vandalism by a member of our own community, we lost precious time and money on boosted outreach social media posts that were inaccessible to potential volunteers. Additionally, our volunteer director resigned two weeks prior to the event and cited these acts of vandalism as part of his rationale. Again, the volunteers behind the organization faced the challenge and did everything they could to solve the problem—it still was not enough. CCINP will need more volunteers to dedicate themselves to advancing the event or will need to seek using organizational funds to pay staffing companies (beyond what we already do) to supplement. Volunteers are the lifeblood of the event, but the supply is exhausted and in need of a shot in the arm.
  5. Communication and signage must be better. Often vendors and attendees were searching for set-up areas or looking for specific booths with no direction. We will utilize our website and social media outlets to better communicate prior to CCINP 2018 in addition to visible signs guiding the community.

The list above is by no means exhaustive of the challenges that our attendees faced, but we have been listening and reading through feedback across our social media outlets and determined these as the most often repeated. Of course, these bits of feedback are sprinkled in amongst praise for the event, love for the new location and shade, love for the organization, and love for the community, but that does not make them any less valid. As an organization, as a body of volunteer leaders, we must be open to feedback and we must be willing to say “sorry” when we fall short in certain aspects. While we feel that we rocked it with some aspects (the parade, the staging, the overall experience), we know we can do better to improve on aspects that were either missed or inadequate for this year.

There’s a beauty in learning opportunities and Circle City IN Pride continues to teach our team new considerations each year. For those that we may have let down with our performance, we genuinely apologize and invite you to join us in building an even stronger future. For those that had an amazing time despite the snags, join us on a committee to make next year even better. At the end of the day, Circle City IN Pride is the main fundraiser for Indy Pride, Inc. and allows the organization to do programming throughout the year to make Pride an ongoing experience.

Thank you all for attending and for extending grace as we learn from this year’s changes.


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