After the 2008 Nashville Pride festival, the organization stood $35,000 in debt and in danger of folding completely. But in the past three years, a team of Music City’s leading GLBT supporters have banded together to stimulate an impressive creative and financial renaissance.
According to Jack Davis, President of Nashville Pride and festival director from 2009-2010, that major turnaround now bodes well for what promises to be the biggest festival to date. Davis joined Nashville Pride in October 2008, and he’s been a firsthand witness to the winning transformation that Nashville Pride has experienced since its low point. Cost cutting measures and sponsorship commitments have contributed to the surge in organizational funds.
"Each year the festival costs around $80,000 to produce," Davis says. "The organization has been cutting budgets and working with sponsors, the city, and other organizations to grow the festival without increasing the overall cost to produce it."
In 2010, a $5 attendance fee was instituted to offset some of the costs in producing the festival. Although going forward in the first place was a gamble—"The board took a big risk putting on the festival," Davis says—it proved to be the catalyst for even greater successes in the last season.
In addition to a full slate of summertime activities such as the annual Pride Pageant and the popular Roller Disco event, the Pride board have developed a consistent and eclectic rotation of events that draw attention to their cause year-round.
"Prior to the 2009 festival, the board felt it was important for the organization to maintain a presence throughout the year," Davis says. "New events were added each month and the number of Pride related events increased with a lot of support from the community. While many of the events are fundraisers for Pride, they are also great community builders between (the city’s) GLBT organizations."
The board presented a number of events for the 2010-2011 year, including:
- Cosmos & Costumes, a Halloween party with tasty cocktails and fun contests.
- 2 Chefs/2 Visions, a dinner hosted by Cha Chah and featuring Top Chef contestants Arnold Myint and Tracey Bloom.
- Martinis & Jazz, an evening of hors d’oeuvres, elegant music and a popular silent auction.
All of these entertainment events are made possible by a dedicated group of individuals who offer their time and talents pro bono. Since Nashville Pride is organized solely by unpaid volunteers, the importance of their contributions can not be understated.
"On average it takes over 100 volunteers to put on a successful festival," Davis notes. "Volunteers come from all walks of life, and many are allies or mother/son duos."
Another major adjustment for the festival was the move from Centennial Park to the more prominent digs at Riverfront Park. That change in scenery helped attract nearly 18,000 visitors to the 2010 festival. What’s that old saying? Location, location, location.
"The Riverfront Park location helps encourage visitors, tourists, and other Tennesseans to walk through the festival," Davis says. "The festival is the largest setup that takes place at Riverfront Park each year."
Relationships among the GLBT organizations may be a key factor in continued progress, but just as important is the organization’s outreach to a more mainstream audience. Although triumphs in the political sphere have been few and far between in 2011, local business support still exists and extends Nashville Pride’s message of inclusiveness.
"A major focus for the organization over the past couple years has been building relationships throughout the community," Davis says. "The city of Nashville and downtown businesses, most notably Hard Rock Café, Metro Human Relations, and the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, have all stepped up to ensure the festival continues to grow. The 2011 Festival looks to be the biggest festival yet, with over 100 vendors, and three stages."
The following individuals were new Nashville Pride board members during the 2010-2011 year: Christy Ikner, Tony Barrow, Teryl Brake, Robert Vaughan. They joined returning board members Jack Davis, Jason Hunt, Jenn Garrett, Joey Leslie, Keith Hinkle, Joseph Woodson, Joey Brown and MAC.