With a new entity overseeing the festival and related events, Knoxville PrideFest has just notched one of its best years ever.

The event, held on June 26 in downtown Knoxville’s Market Square, featured a late afternoon kickoff celebration and parade leading up to the festival itself. Around 50 vendors took part in the event through exhibit booths as well as sponsorships and other support, while around 3,500 attendees packed the square.

“This is about 25 or 30 percent growth for us over last year, and I have not heard a single negative comment from any of the attendees, vendors or entertainers,” said Todd Cramer, president of the East Tennessee Equality Council, which now operates the festival. “Everyone was just thrilled with it.”

Formed in late May after consulting with legal experts, the East Tennessee Equality Council spun off from the Knoxville Human Rights Group, which had been operating the festival along with the Metropolitan Community Church of Knoxville.

“The festival had gotten really big in the last couple of years and there was a lot of concern that it was just too much for them to handle,” Cramer explained. “The Knoxville Human Rights Group is the local committee for the Tennessee Equality Project, so its responsibilities are more political, and the church had its own responsibilities. We got some good advice from the University of Tennessee’s law center, and now have this separate group to take care of all the pride festival business.”

The event didn’t draw a lot of local media coverage, a situation that drew fire from some GLBT-rights advocates as well as a response from the Knoxville News-Sentinel, but Kramer said that event organizers could shoulder some of the blame as well.

“We got better coverage last year in terms of the television stations, but we also were transitioning this year from one organization to another running the festival, so it delayed a lot of our efforts to reach out to the press,” he said. “The Metro Pulse, one of our local media sponsors, has been fantastic to work with. They were very professional and did the best job of any local media of covering the entirety of our events.”

Knoxville PrideFest has had a bumpy decade leading up to this year, including two separate events in 2006 and nothing in 2007, but the local community can look for smooth sailing and bigger and better things now and going forward — and everyone is encouraged to participate.

“It's not our event, It's the community’s,” Cramer said. “We just organize it.”

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