Remember back when some in the community wondered, "What does Pride matter anymore?"
It was the (comparatively) conservative early-2000s, when we were just barely past the worst days of AIDS, marriage equality was far on the horizon. Some suggested we didn't even need a parade, back when the festival was in midtown at Centennial Park or downtown at Riverfront Park. Others demanded that it remain. The rainbow flag fell out of sight, but for that one day, mostly lost in favor for the (then-)ambiguous HRC window sticker.
But now, how the times have changed.
Our community's successes — locally and nationally — have brought out both the haters (in the form of a robust and high-profile legislative session just past) and the supporters. In fact, today it's not even up for debate: Pride, a celebration, is necessary.
Well over 3000 people turned up downtown early Saturday to participate in Nashville Pride's Equality Walk, according to The Tennessean. Pride President Joey Leslie found it, the parade, an ongoing annual highlight.
"It's amazing to see how it's organically growing year after year," he said via email. "This year with at least 1,000 more people participating including the Metro Police Department for this first time. It's a wonderful, emotional event…. so moving to see the streets literally filled with people celebrating and sharing love with each other and the city."
There is no official head count but Leslie and The Tennessean in its recap of Saturday's festival estimate that close to 20,000 people showed up for the daylong festival and, by all accounts, the day was a resounding success.
"No official numbers yet but estimates are at 20,000," Leslie said. "We expanded the festival footprint this year to make room for 100 more vendors and it was still packed everywhere you looked, especially Friday night with the great weather and stellar performance from our headliner, Daya. And even with the heat on Saturday, there was a sea of people dancing and singing along with En Vogue at the end of the day."
Heat appears to have been an issue for a number of festival-goers, if a recent Facebook post from Nashville Pride is any indication. The organization is currently soliciting opinions from the community regarding satisfaction with this year's festival, including entertainment, demographic information, and an opportunity to share thoughts on improving the experience in the future.
In the interim, Leslie can speak only anecdotally about response from the community, especially regarding the layout changes the team made in planning the festival for Public Square Park again this year.
"We've received nothing but positive feedback so far," he said. "Several people stopped me throughout the day to say the entertainment was exactly what you'd expect from Music City. Enhancements to the layout were well received including the Entertainment Stage we moved to Deaderick Street and the addition of a new Kids' Zone to supplement our Youth Pavilion."
We have photos from the festival. See also this video from Nashville Pride.