Market Square in downtown Knoxville was the place to be Saturday June 10. PrideFest on the Square 2006 proved to be an excellent day to spend a beautiful afternoon listening to live entertainment and browsing the various venders that were set up on the square. Over 600 people came out to show their support of the GLBT community in Knoxville. Sponsored by the Greater Knoxville LGBTQ Leadership Council, the celebration marked the first time Knoxville has celebrated Pride since the 2003 event held at the World’s Fair Site. Co-Organizers for this year’s event were Todd Cramer and Beth Maples-Bays
A variety of performers and speakers entertained and enlightened festival-goers throughout the afternoon. Performers included Kimberly Brown, a local musician, and local female impersonator, Hope St. Clair. St. Clair entertained us with numbers by artists like Annie Lennox and Pink. She even dedicated one song to her favorite President, Mr. George W. Bush. Hope is a member of the cast at Rainbow West in Knoxville.
Other performers included headliner Karen E. Reynolds, MAC Productions, Chad Walker, Will Parker, Oskyr Powers, Raif Jackson, and Heather Maples.
The speakers for PrideFest included Mark Harmon, who is running for Knox County Commissioner, and Randy Tarkington, statewide coordinator for Tennessee Equality Project’s VOTE NO on 1 campaign against the ballot initiative slated for November. The proposed amendment that would permanently ban marriage for GLBT couples in Tennessee. In addition to its impact on same-sex couples, it would also affect their children and families, as well as having an overall demoralizing effect on the GLBT.
“There are an estimated 9 million children in the United States in foster care and the majority of them are in the south. Many of the foster kids are in the homes of same-sex couples that love and care for them,” noted Tarkington.
Other speakers included Bob Galloway, Rick Sawyer, Beth Maples-Bays, Colvin Idol, Tina McMillan, Ken Palmer, Larry Kitchen, Donna Dearmon, Ashe Smith, Donna Hankins, John Croxton, Bob Becker, and Todd Cramer, MC for the event.
Cramer, Co-President of the Greater Knoxville LGBTQ leadership Council and leader of the Knoxville Human Rights Group sums it up, “The slogan on the official Knox PrideFest 2006 t-shirts said it all. It’s about who you are, it’s about fairness, it’s about equality, it’s about time.”
“Saturday was a phenomenal event. The entire community of Knoxville, gay and straight, was entertained, enlightened, and enriched by a wide variety of supportive speakers, venders, and fabulous performers,” said Cramer, co-organizer for PrideFest 2006.
“Knox PrideFest on the Square has brought us together as a community once again. We need these visible events to give our community a chance to reach out to people who may not know us. The support of our friends and families is needed and appreciated in these times, as we fend off the assault on our civil rights. It’s always nice to make new friends, and I believe we did a lot of that at PrideFest,” notes Beth Maples-Bays, co-organizer of PrideFest 2006 and East Tennessee Bureau Chief for Out and About Newspaper.
Venders at Market Square also showed their support of the GLBT community, offering t-shirts, buttons, and other wares for sale and give-away. Knoxville Cares gave out information on STD’s and safe sex. They freely distributed condoms and packets of lube. Partnering with the Helen Ross-McNabb HIV Prevention team, they offered free on-site Orasure HIV/AIDS testing. Participants can call Jennifer Rock at the Ross-McNabb Center in two weeks for results. Many people took the opportunity to get tested.
Our own Out and About Newspaper had a booth with also free frozen pops, which were a big hit with the kids as well as the adults. Metropolitan Community Church and Whosoever Church had booths passing out religious information and free bottles of water, to showing their support for the GLBT community.
Market Square businesses opened their doors and patios to visitors at PrideFest. Preservation Pub and World Grotto were very welcoming, allowing the crowd to use their restrooms and the performers access to their backstage areas to store their outfits and change.
“Preservation Pub and World Grotto said we were more than welcome and the business we generated for them was more than thanks enough,” observes Todd Cramer.
More than once during PrideFest the bartender at Preservation Pub asked Cramer not to mention their help anymore because she could barely keep up with all the business she had.
Further festivities held later on in the evening included the 2 nd Annual Pride Dance sponsored and hosted by MPower, local GLBT social/support group affiliated with the Church of the Savior – United Church of Christ. The dance was held at the Metropolitan Community Church of Knoxville (MCC-K.)
The 21 st Annual Pride Picnic was held the following day on the grounds of MCC-K. Food and fun were in plentiful supply along with the talents of Karen E. Reynolds and the Cinnamon Girls who serenaded delighted picnic-ers. Various groups provided information of concern to the community including Knoxville Cares and Tennessee Transgender Political Action Committee.
Whether for the toddlers in the water fountains, young people finding themselves, or elders who have seen remarkable changes during their lifetimes, PrideFest is a rite of passage. It strengthens the community and allows others to see GLBT resolve in the ongoing struggle for equality.