by GK Gurley | photo courtesy Ron Sanford
Ron Sanford continues to be a driving force in Nashville’s LGBT+ community. Sanford is known not only for his infectious personality and eccentric, yet fabulous fashion sense, but for his huge heart and giving demeanor. As one of the organizers of Nashville Pride, his company, Ron Sanford Productions (RSP), has been a part of not just the LGBT+ community but the Nashville community at large. He is an advocate, charitable donor, and renowned event planner who lends a hand to any organization in need, helping to add color and flair to any occasion.
Sanford was born and raised in Nashville and came out in high school. “I needed my community to see there’s a gay boy here,” he said. After facing discrimination that removed him from his classes and school activities, he was motivated to build a supportive and loving community wherever he went. He wound up in Atlanta after attending UT Knoxville. Throughout his childhood, Sanford witnessed family member after family member die. His resilience in dealing with death allowed him to be a strong and constant presence for the gay community in Atlanta during the AIDS crisis. During a time when the LGBT+ community was largely rejected and many members of the community were taken too soon by AIDS, Sanford opened up his drag bar to provide a space. He also opened his heart to host the funerals for those refused service by other businesses.
“All they gave us was a funeral home basement,” he said. “We mourned our friends. And I watched the lesbians, drag queens, and leather guys keep our community going.”
Sanford created space. Space for family and friends in mourning. Space for the artistic productions by Atlanta’s drag community. Space for communities to come together. He created space that was safe and welcoming for all.
Now, Sanford is creating another kind of space, River’s Edge Bar and Event Venue.
River’s Edge is on Davidson Street right off the river and close enough to the Titan’s stadium to tailgate and then walk to the game or down to Broadway.
Situated under the Nashville skyline, this space is being remodeled as a catch-all event space. Olivia Erickson, office manager for RSP, tells us their vision for this space is to host everything from weddings, galas and corporate events to fundraisers, private parties, and concerts.
“The end result will be like Marathon Music Works with an industrial character,” said Erickson. Unlike Marathon Music Works, this space will give creative liberty to their clients. They are intentionally keeping the walls white so clients can decorate as they please. While there will be a full-service bar and restaurant, clients are also free to bring in the catering company of their choice.
River’s Edge will have two areas, a 40,000 sq. ft main space and a smaller area that has 14,000 sq. ft. of space.
For the main area, Sanford said he wants it to feel like a hotel ballroom that clients can use to fit their needs. There will be a stage and glass walls looking out over the river and city skyline. This area, which will also house the bar and restaurant, will be remodeled and opened in a later development phase.
The smaller area will be modern with huge, canvas screens, DJ station and dance floor. This space is slated to have its first event in December, a New Years Eve party.
Sanford’s goal for River’s Edge is to be a hub for all of Nashville. He doesn’t want this space to be just for LGBT+ events. He wants to weave the LGBT+ community into the fabric of Nashville, rather than keeping all of us divided.