Gary K. Brackett

When Gary Brackett moved back to Indianapolis from Memphis in 2003, he set out to start an LGBTQ parade like Memphis. “I’m not going to fail. I’m going to find people that are going to help me succeed,” said Brackett. “The community needed a parade.”

At the time, the city was not accepting any new parades. Brackett appealed the decision stating that the parade would be as important to the LGBTQ community of Indianapolis as Rosa Parks not giving up her seat on the bus. It was accepted.

“For one day, we could set aside our differences, come together and be a community. We could be visible and show the people of Indiana that yes, there are more than 5-10 of us,” Brackett shared. “We are part of the community and we give back to the community.”

The first parade lasted only 15 minutes and included a single float, a few drag queens and an antique truck. Today the parade lasts over two hours and was recently re-branded as the Cadillac Barbie IN Pride Parade — a tribute to Brackett’s drag queen name. Under Brackett’s leadership, the Circle City IN Pride Festival surrounding the parade now hosts nearly 100,000 people, up from just 10,000 in 2003.

“I’m usually towards the front of the parade. I remember looking back one year back and, for the first time, I couldn’t see the end. It was everything I imagined. I was so happy,” said Brackett. “It was almost overwhelming.”

Brackett makes every effort to ensure all types of people, companies and organizations are represented at the festival. Brackett makes a point to have nonprofits providing support to LGBTQ youth or people with HIV available during the festival. For some, it’s the only way to get connected to LGBTQ-focused services.

Beyond the festival, Brackett also leads the Bag Ladies, a group of drag queens that raise money for HIV/AIDS serving organizations through various shows and an annual Halloween bus tour. Last October, Bag Ladies raised $41,444.

“We have to work together and remember the big picture,” said Brackett. “It’s never been about me, it has always been about giving to the community. I’d never put a dress on and perform other than to raise money for a cause. Everyone can get out and do something by making time for things that are important.”