Attendance was estimated at more than 20,000 for Nashville Pride 2017 on Saturday, June 24 at Public Square Park
Story + Photo by Michelle Willard
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — More than 20,000 converged on Public Square Park in downtown Nashville over the weekend to celebrate Nashville Pride 2017.
Nashville Pride offers music, drag shows and an equality march, but most importantly, it offers a place for LGBT+ Tennesseans to be themselves.
Since the first parade nearly 30 years ago, Nashville Pride has grown from an afternoon to a two-day event hosting more than 20,000 in downtown Nashville.
This year, the festival featured entertainment from nationally known acts on the Nissan Main Stage, an entertainment/drag stage, kids zone, and youth pavilion, and more than 200 vendors featuring local nonprofits, artists and businesses.
“It’s a beautiful thing to see,” said Sara Olivia Moore, who attended her first Pride event on Saturday. She explained she grew up in Arkansas in an independent Southern Baptist family.
“So coming from where I come from, seeing kids being able to be themselves, it makes me feel warm that they can feel welcome somewhere. It’s all walks of life coming together harmoniously,” the 29-year-old said.
Couple Mike and Michael, who asked not to use their last name, were pleased with the turnout on Saturday.
Mike said he marched in the first parade in 1988 and worked a booth for the Music City Bears in the 1990s when the parade started at Riverfront Park and ended with a small festival at Centennial Park.
He said there were only a couple hundred people who would attend back then and some of them were just curiosity seekers.
“I don’t know if all these people were around and didn’t participate or if this is an explosion of people feeling good about themselves. If that’s what it is, it’s life affirming,” Mike said.
Sueann Shiah, who attended Pride with Moore and Emily Allen, said she was amazed at how Pride events have gone from a counterculture protest to a corporate-sponsored event.
The first pride parades were held in the early 1970s to protest mistreatment of gays and lesibans by law enforcement and challenge heteronormative laws and public spaces.
Nearly 50 years later, Nashville Pride 2017 listed Cracker Barrel, Lyft, Cigna, Bridgestone Americas and Nissan North America as sponsors. And on June 6, a resolution passed the Metro Nashville Council passed a declaring June as “Nashville Pride Month.”
“The Metro Police marched in the parade and it was started because of mistreatment by police,” she said. The department marched in the parade this year behind a banner that said “Committed to Fairness and Equality.”
Metro Police officers were joined by many other organizations and churches in the Equality Walk as it flowed through downtown Nashville.
Nashville Pride and Equality Walk capped off a month of events that featured concerts, rallies, a pageant, spirituality night, and a pre-party and awards show, among many other events.
Michelle Willard can be contacted at michelle.willard(at)gmail.com.