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Last updated: Fri. Jul. 25, 2014 - 01:21 am EDT

Pride festival expecting to see growth with march, music

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The debates and drawbacks opposing the federal ruling to legalize same-sex marriage last month won’t rain on this weekend’s 18th annual Fort Wayne Pride festival.

In fact, director Nikki Fultz expects to see more colors of the rainbow than ever before.

Fort Wayne Pride plays host to all ages, sexualities and backgrounds at the festival’s kickoff party today at Headwaters Park. The weekend’s activities include live music, a dance party, workshops and games in the free KidSpace for children 12 and younger.

The festival’s staff is expecting more than 10,000 people to turn out over the weekend  because of advances in marketing and outreach.

“Pride is more of a celebration of our community. We’re looking at the positives about how far we have come in the past 18 years. It has changed significantly since we started, and we’re happy about that,” Fultz says.

“I think our community is getting more and more visible in Fort Wayne, and I think more people are open to the festival. At one time, it was seen as a gay/lesbian event, but now more allies are attending as well.”

She says that the recent Indiana same-sex marriage ruling and subsequent hold by Attorney General Greg Zoeller could be an opportunity for more  people to pay attention to the community.

“I don’t think people would’ve expected this (ruling) to happen in Indiana so soon. We would love for it to happen right away, but as we get closer and closer, we’re optimistic,” she says. “We’re hoping the tides turn that way.”

Fultz says one sign of growth has been the annual pride march. She is expecting the Saturday event, which is in its third year, to be one of the larger draws along with the drag show.  

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised that it’s grown quite a bit,” she says. “This year, I think we’re going to have a dramatic increase. I know a lot of open and affirming churches and other organizations in Fort Wayne (that) are planning to attend. So not only do we have people who have been attending the past couple years, we have new people coming in to participate.”

The changes continue with new entertainment choices. While  today and early Saturday afternoon will be devoted to local acts, Fultz says the rest of the evening will have performers from outside the area.

Performers include pop/rock/country singer and Cleveland, Ohio-native Jordan Genovese, Detroit R&B singer JaRay and pop singer Dario from Tuscon, Arizona.

“We were looking to do something fresh and new,” Fultz says. “We have used a lot of the same performers every year and we appreciate those groups for wanting to come back, but we wanted to give other entertainers an opportunity to get their music to Fort Wayne. We also wanted to make sure that different genres of music were represented so more people can realize there’s something for them to enjoy.”

With the festival continuing to make community connections, Fultz is looking forward to a diverse and welcoming crowd.

“Pride gives you so many different types of people being happy and being themselves for a couple of days. That is, to me the best part,” she says. “It’s about people being able to be themselves and not worry about being judged or ridiculed.”

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