Nashville Pride will celebrate its 20th year this year, and in doing so, will break with tradition by moving the festival from a Saturday to Sunday.
For the first time in its more recent history, it will be held on Sunday, June 1.
“We have decided to mark this anniversary by making major changes to the festival, providing us a platform to take Nashville’s Pride celebration to the next level,” explained Brad Bennett, president of Nashville Pride. “We also have a couple new traditions that we’re going to implement to make Nashville Pride unique. Finally, we have some super entertainment in the works that we hope will bring out a really big crowd.”
The festival has grown tremendously over the past 20 years, with crowds over the past three years averaging more than 15,000 people (no official number could be provided for attendance at the 2007 Pride Festival). Its budget has grown as well, with the group “Our Pride Encompasses Nashville” filing an IRS form 990 in 2006 with revenue exceeding $70,000, and spending more than $50,000 on the festival and the week-long activities proceeding it. Nashville Pride officials say they raised enough money in 2007 to “cover all expenses from last year’s events.”
Bennett said the move from a Saturday to a Sunday was done to attract a larger crowd and to “be more inline with the rest of the country who has the festival on Sunday.”
“As well as to commemorate the Stonewall Riots which took place on Sunday,” Bennett said. “We also believe this will attract a larger crowd and benefit Nashville’s broader business community. With a Sunday event, people can come in Saturday night, enjoy the Nashville scene, and come celebrate with us on Sunday.”
Hours for the Sunday festival have not yet been decided, but Bennett said “they will be similar to years past.”
The quest to bring in more out-of-town guests for the festival appears to be one of the driving forces behind the move to Sunday, with Bennett saying, “we actually feel that more people from out of town will be able to attend the festival being later in the weekend.”
Jason Hunt said he had several friends who come from out of town for the festival (see releated story “Readers respond”). He thinks changing the day will lesson the chances of his friends coming.
“I have several friends who come in from out of town for the Festival,” Hunt said. “Changing it to Sunday would negatively affect their chances of coming.”
Pam Vigil agreed saying, "please don’t change the day from Saturday to Sunday. Having our festival on a Saturday affords those of us who come from out of town an extra day to get back home."
Ruth Holloway, who lives in East Tennessee’s town of Maryville said, “I would love to come to the Nashville Festival for this coming year. I might even be able to gather some others to come along. I don’t know how many out-of-town people you expect to visit/travel there for the festival. However, for me, due to so many circumstances, travel / distance considerations, I would prefer it to be on a Saturday. That way, I would be able to come into Nashville on the Friday evening before, get a place to stay and possibly visit around. Then, I would be able to enjoy the Festival on its own on Saturday – stay over to rest up and then travel back home on Sunday (it takes me about three-and-a-half to four hours for driving time). I would more likely visit Nashville’s Pride Festival if it were on Saturday because Sunday would make it harder for me physically and travel-wise.”
Some have expressed concern about holding the festival on Sunday, a day of worship for many.
"Sunday is when I attend church, and I relax between services,” said Chris Brooks. “I would be much more likely to attend if the festival remained on Saturday."
Brian D. Johnston, who operates Classic Touch Massage, said he would not be able to have a booth at the festival if it was held on a Sunday due to church-related obligations.
“I know our business, due to church related obligations, would not be able to participate if the festival was held on Sunday,” Johnston said.
Bennett said the move to Sunday was not intended to offend any church-goers.
“I truly hope not,” Bennett said when asked if there were any concerns about offending church-goers. “We want everybody from the LGBT community to be involved. I’m hoping that those who attend church regularly will be able to still do so, and then come to the park for the festival.”
Other changes planned for the festival this year include expanding Pride Week activities to 10 days, including favorites such as the annual Pride Pageant as well as Spirtuality Night.
There will also be a smaller parade (the route has not been determined but organizaers did say it would not be down Elliston Place) that would culminate in opening ceremonies. Those ceremonies would provide each organization participating to be announced on stage and display their flag near the main stage.
“If an organization is interested in participating, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get them all the information they need to get involved,” Bennett said.