Since 1988, Nashville Pride has been a moving force in Nashville. Celebrating 25 years in 2013, its volunteers and board members have been working tirelessly year round to host events which all lead up to the Pride Festival at Riverfront Park on June 15.

The festival and events leading up to it help support Nashville Pride’s mission to educate and maintain a sense of pride, community and awareness of, about and for GLBT people and culture in Middle Tennessee.

With the Pride Month Kick Off Bar Crawl, Pride Pageant, Spirituality Night, Pride Awards and Pride Rocks! Pre-Party coming up before the festival on June 15, it’s a month of celebration, fabulousness and, well—Pride!

As you can probably imagine, the planning, creativity and dedication to make all this happen is a work in progress and without the Pride Board and volunteers, it would be impossible.

For 25 years, Pride has been an integral part of the Nashville community, each year offering education, excitement and happy memories to volunteers and attendees alike.

“I've had the honor of serving as Volunteer Chairman for the last four years,” said Joseph Woodson. Woodson serves double duty as Pride President Elect. “Meeting our volunteers, serving with them, and hearing each of their unique stories is my favorite part of Pride every year.”

“One story I tell over and over is about a mother/son team who visited from Alabama,” Woodson continued. “The mother called me from Alabama before the festival to explain, ‘we are volunteering because my 17-year-old son came out to me this school year. I want to take my son somewhere to see that who he is, and who he loves, is normal. I want him to see that there are many more people just like him, and we don't have a Pride in Birmingham.’ I will absolutely never forget that, and indeed that is why Pride exists. So that the community at large can know that we are parents, doctors, teachers; we're taxpayers, we contribute, and we are proud to be part of the Nashville community.”

“When I met her and her son on the day of the festival, he explained to me, while throwing bags of ice into a cooler, ‘this year has been tough, and I couldn't have done any of it without my mother.’"

This dedication comes when Woodson is not researching and providing policy analysis for the Tennessee General Assembly.

Current President Allan Gonce is a Senior Buyer for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and aims to further expand the GLBT exposure in the business and political arena.

“I'm lucky enough to be President this year,” said Gonce. “Last year I was President Elect/Festival Director—a huge job.  We are lucky to have Jack Davis as our Festival Director this year.  His expertise and involvement is going to make the Festival a huge success.  My involvement in Pride is made so much better because of the Board, our Festival vendors and the great GLBT community in which we get to work.”

When asked his memories from the last 25 years of the Pride Festival, Gonce responded, “The most vivid memories over the past 25 years are the growth of the Festival, the growing acceptance by all facets of the community and the great time everyone has.  Being President on the 25th year is amazing and could not have been possible without all of those board members that have for years given a lot of hard work.”

MAC, a staple in the GLBT community, has been a Nashville Pride board member for over 20 years. MAC serves as the Pride Pageant Coordinator and the Nashville Pride Tribe and Play Entertainment Stage Coordinator.

MAC’s most vivid Pride memories are the parades and pageants. “I used to walk and have floats in the Parade. We even had friends come from out of town to participate in the Parade. They were so much fun. I was the person who introduced the first Drag King into the Pride Pageant and the Pageants still excite me.”

Joey Leslie, who oversees press as the Nashville Pride PR and Marketing Director was elected to the Pride board in 2010.

“It’s the 25th year of Nashville Pride and we are ready to show this city a good time. I’m so thankful to be a part of this organization and excited about the big things in store,” said the PR guru. Leslie remarked that the success and growth of the Festival wouldn’t have been possible without “many generous sponsors including Coors Light, our presenting sponsor this year, and countless other businesses and supporters from the community.”

“The entertainment this year is going to be amazing, including Beverly McClellan (from NBC's The Voice) on the Bridgestone Main Stage,” Gonce shared. “We have a great line up and are getting a lot of excitement built up.  [We are] also very excited about our second annual Equality Walk this year, sponsored by Vanderbilt University.  It was twice as big as we had hoped last year and we anticipate it being even bigger this year.”

Woodson says that Pride, and the events that run the festival, go on all year long, “2013 is our 25th Anniversary year, so everything has a silver lining. We have already celebrated diversity with exciting twists on our 2Chefs/2Visions event hosted at the Farmer's Market with four unique chefs (Daisy King, Margot McCormack, Arnold Myint and Laura Wilson) and hosted by former Miss Nashville Pride and all-around-diva, Suzy Wong; and Martinis & Jazz was a huge success at a new location - East-Centric Pavilion - which included a DJ from Nashville's QDP, a sell-out silent auction, and delicious food and drinks. [This year’s] festival will be no different - everything will be on all cylinders for our big 2-5!”

This year promises to be the most exciting and entertaining Pride Festival yet; to volunteer or find out more information about the organization and this year’s events, visit nashvillepride.org.

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

Rumble Boxing Gulch, Nashville


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