Come out, come out, wherever you are!

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Nashville’s Pride gathering is one of the largest of its kind in the Southeast. Supporters from across the country will flock to similar events in locales from Memphis to New York and San Francisco. 

However, what often gets less attention are the small, local events, such as the one just outside of Nashville that’s about to celebrate its 3rd Annual Pride Festival! Many people aren’t even aware of the event in Murfreesboro, just 30 minutes southeast of Nashville down I-24. 

The shindig planned in Rutherford County is, as noted by Chris Sanders, executive director of The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) “going to be a day for all the surrounding counties too.” 

Events like this bring Pride to those who aren’t able to make a pilgrimage to these larger cities, but afford the same opportunity for pride. Boro Pride brings something to the rural LGBT community that many never thought they’d see in their lifetime. For young and old alike, it’s the opportunity to experience the solace, comfort, acceptance, support, sincere love, and strength Pride brings—in their own communities.  

It’s a chance to live Shakespeare’s maxim, “To thy own self be true.” 

This experience, for some, will give the courage to come to terms deep down, and the good sense to surround themselves with genuine people getting their pride on here in Murfreesboro.  

Leslie Russell Yost, committee member, with her husband Troy alongside her since the first year in 2016, said, “I want to see more people feel comfortable within their selves, and that we’re all one community.” She estimated that approximately 35% of attendees are families and heterosexual people. 

Sanders urge all to attend no matter their location, sexual identity, or sexuality, because it’s “a day motivating people to show their pride, and not hide it; instead, to embrace it…” 

If you’re concerned about safety, Yost says there’s been no violence during the last two celebrations. However, she tips her hat in thanks to the Murfreesboro Police Department., who will be providing security, and was very clear about the respect provided by those sworn to serve and protect. 

George Manus Jr., the event’s entertainment coordinator, recalls only one issue where officers had to intervene since the first year. An individual (not associated with the festival) jumped on stage partially clothed, dancing very provocatively. Manus said, “that perhaps degraded the event overall, but law enforcement handled the situation with dignity.” 

While official requests for comment from the mayor, county manager, Murfreesboro Police Department, and the Sheriff’s Department were declined, it was made abundantly clear unofficially that all branches of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County government, especially, law enforcement will stand tall for all those in their neck of the woods that day. 

However, this protection comes at a price, as does the entire jubilee itself.   

While, the planning committee does receive some financial support from TEP, there’s a huge gap to fill in pulling this event off, especially since there is no entry fee. Murfreesboro’s Pride committee looks to sponsors, for example the 50-60 vendors, to support the assembly. The remaining holes in the budget require private donors. 

Brittany Benefield Potts, a committee member, explained further, “The budget starts with remaining funds from t-shirt sales and sponsors from the previous year.” This leaves a lot of work for the committee members responsible for sponsorship, especially Nichole McVeigh. 

The necessary funds required naturally correlates to the amount of activities, stage size, entertainment, amount of police presence, the space downtown, etc. Yost said, “Eventually, I want the festival to take up the entire downtown area, but that requires a lot of money and attendance.” 

As indicated by the numbers from last year, reported by Sanders, her ambitious goal indeed may eventually come to fruition.  Sanders reports attendance was roughly 2,000 people in 2017. 

This year, all those involved in the planning process can’t wait to see an even larger turn-out. So what can attendees expect? 

For starters, there is an unofficial pre-pride drag show at The Boro Bar and Grill, located off Greenland Drive.  The show will start at around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, September 7, 2018. 

The owner of the establishment, Lee Roberts, has hosted similar LGBT events. He said, “The Boro has always supported alternatives of all types.” 

Kicking off everything the day of Pride is the walk, around 5:00 p.m. in front of the former capital building of Tennessee, located at 1 North Public Square. George Manus Jr., AKA Iona, will be one of the two masters of ceremonies, with Zac Woodward of 107.5 The River assisting. 

Entertainment will consist of an improv skit, an array of musical artists, and, naturally, a line-up of drag performances. As always there will be an abundance of vendors, from food trucks serving up some sinful indulgences, to politicians and local businesses and organizations handing out some free loot to take home with you. 

LGBT outreach organization My House, located in Nashville, will be on site providing HIV testing at NO COST! Additionally, they will have information about PrEP (Truvada), and how to receive assistance in obtaining the medication. 

Local businesses around the venue look forward to serving the influx of patrons the event will bring. Alli Fiekert, general manager of the trendy L3 invited everyone to the establishment, saying, “We are such a diverse community … and have let crew use our facilities for Pride on the Square.” 

Credit for all of the planning goes to the Pride Festival committee consisting of: Leslie Russel Yost, Troy Yost, William Langston, Brittany Benefield-Potts, Nichole McVeigh, Dole McVeigh, George Manus Jr., John Judkins, and Laura Bohling. 

It’s not too late to help by volunteering, or by being a financial sponsor, to make the day even better. Sponsorships and general donations can be made by visiting tnep.nationbuilder.com/boro_pride_2018

On behalf of the pride committee, Leslie Russell Yost, passed on the following message: “It’s a family friendly event that’s a great representation of our community, and we look forward to seeing everyone there.” 

Please come out and show your pride for yourself and those you love. No matter where you reside, make the trip out to show your commitment and support for the LGBT community, wherever it lives. 

 

The 3rd Annual Pride Festival is on September 8, 2018 on Historic Murfreesboro Square. The Pride Walk starts at 5:00 p.m., with entertainment until 10:00 p.m. 

Photo courtesy of Lucent Vignette Photography / Dole McVeigh