Knoxville Pride Parade 2018: Rainbows and Good Will to All

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

(I anticipated missing this year’s Pride Parade, so I asked Scott McNutt – past writer for the News Sentinel and Metro Pulse to fill in. As it turned out, I was able to attend, so I took the photographs. As always, there will be an additional load of photographs on the Inside of Knoxville FB page.) Here’s Scott:

Anticipating the arrival of the Knoxville Pride Parade 2018, the attendees waiting on Gay Street appeared happy and relaxed. This is notable, given recent history. This includes this month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling in favor of a baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding; the rise in number of hate crimes in the U.S. for the second straight year; and the current presidential administration’s apparent indifference to the rights of anyone who doesn’t look like its members. The mood might have been fearful, apprehensive, or despairing, but good will seemed predominant at the parade route.

City Officials, Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

When I arrived at about 11:45 A.M., I observed old friends greeting each other with fierce embraces, a group distributing hugs to strangers free of charge, clusters of families sitting curbside, gaggles of teens and 20-somethings giggling, whispering and darting in and out along the crowded sidewalks, and new acquaintances chatting cheerfully. Attendees were of many races and many generations, from infants to octogenarians. No one appeared worried or concerned. Benevolence was abounding.

A significant police presence, however, underscored that, despite the crowd’s good cheer, security and safety were not taken lightly. Police officers pedaled past on bikes often, and patrol car lights could be seen up and down the route.

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Where I stood (in front of the Art Market and Gallery on the 400 block of Gay), I counted about 60 people in the immediate vicinity on my side of the street and the opposite. This was at 11:50 A.M. As the parade approached about 20 minutes later, 60 had swelled to well more than twice that number, too many in fact for me to count, because the throng was too thick. From this observation, I couldn’t estimate anywhere near an exact attendance figure, but the crowd was easily thousands strong.

When the parade arrived, onlookers thundered their approval. With each passing unit of the parade, the merry roar of the crowd grew louder. I have attended several Pride parades and Christmas parades in downtown Knoxville, and I don’t recall ever hearing the crowd as loud.

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

A fire engine came at the head of the procession, followed by marchers bearing a Knox Pride banner and waving an assortment of flags, including those of some branches of the armed services.

Grand Marshal Ben Byers came next atop the back of a BMW convertible, then the Knoxville Gay Men’s Chorus and after that, an all-male flag-twirling troupe, colorful rainbow heart flags flying.

More groups followed, dancing, chanting, stilt-walking, hula-hooping and having a good time. The most amusing attraction had to be a motorized love seat zipping and bobbing crazily around, its three occupants squeezed in tight and holding on tighter.

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

As I watched the passing spectacle, a thought struck me: how remarkable it was that this occasion was so unremarkable. The Knoxville Pride Parade has been an annual event for over 10 years. It has the support of the Knoxville city administration. And, clearly, it is strongly supported by many citizens. It is an expected celebration. Its occurrence is normal (if never mundane).

Yet, 20 years ago, a parade of this magnitude celebrating gay pride occurring in the heart of Knoxville on Saturday midday would have been unthinkable. In 1998, an event of any magnitude on Saturday midday in the middle of downtown Knoxville would have been astonishing. Back then, downtown was often still little more than a ghost town. As a society, we may have a long way to go, but the 2018 Pride Parade’s tremendous turnout is testament to how far we have come as a city and a community.

Returning to the parade, several businesses were represented, including Club XYZ, Last Days of Autumn Brewing Company, Crafty Bastard Brewery, School of Hard Knox, Eyeglass World and First Tennessee Bank, among many others.

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Some church denominations, such as Lutheran, Methodist, Church of the Good Shepherd and the Unitarian Universalist participated – a welcome sign that many in the faith-based community stand in solidarity with the LBGTQ community.

Candidates for political office represented in the parade included Democrats Renee Hoyos, Josh Williams, Linda Haney, Sheri Ridgeway, Jamie Ballinger, Rick Staples, Gloria Johnson, and Karl Dean. Many of the local Democratic candidates who had a contingent in the parade were themselves in attendance, too. The Knox County Democratic Party and the Knox Area Democratic Socialists of America had a presence in the parade as well.

Many other groups took part in the parade, some bearing messages. For example, the Church of the Savior United Church of Christ had a banner reading, “No matter who you are, you are welcome here.” Participants for Pagan Pride wore T-shirts with the slogan, “No one should live in a closet.”

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Following is a smattering of other messages expressed in signs, banners, T-shirts and flags, carried or worn by both parade participants and spectators:

“Vol means all”

“Discovery Pride”

“This is what democracy looks like”

“God is still speaking, and the word is love”

“Travelers supports diversity”

“Stop anti-trans violence”

“Love, respect, accept”

“As I have loved you, love one another – John 13:34

Overwhelmingly, the sentiments seen were those of love, acceptance, and inclusion.

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Rainbows were, naturally, a frequent theme of parade attire, adornment and ornamentation, both among participants and bystanders: rainbow bunting, rainbow streamers, rainbow balloons, rainbow flags, rainbow beads, rainbow shirts, rainbow pants, rainbow shorts, rainbow suspenders, rainbow leggings, what looked like rainbow mukluks, rainbow kerchiefs on dogs, rainbow-dyed hairstyles, and Mohawk-haircut rainbow wigs. Festive and peaceful, rainbow after rainbow passed by, in and around the parade.

After about 40 minutes, the last parade vehicle arrived, supporting Trans empowerment. Then the onlookers began trailing after the departing vehicles, heading toward the Pridefest celebration.

However, as it chanced, there was one last sight to behold. Trailing behind the parade and the security escort came straggling six or so protesters, garbed in black and camouflage, a couple of them wearing masks. Surrounded by a security detail, they were a sad punctuation to such a joyous event.

Pride Parade, Gay Street, Knoxville, June 2018

Their presence also is a warning: As far as we have come as a society, progress might be reversed if hate is allowed to foment. Still, if the turnout for the Knoxville Pride Parade 2018 and the warmth and inclusiveness on display there were any indication, whatever setbacks may lurk ahead, love will eventually win the day.


  1. Thanks to Scott for his excellent report and Alan for the great photos, as usual. Coverage of this, and similar, events is needed more than ever, if our society is to progress together. I was going to note that many in the opposition are dying off, anyway, until I recalled an image of a young TN white nationalist with a swastika on his neck, at your parade.

    St. Petersburg just held its annual weekend-long Pride Fest, as well. On Saturday night, I was driving home on the interstate from work, my radio blasting, and, approaching the downtown, a fireworks finale suddenly exploded over the city ahead in my windshield. And I felt a surge of hope & joy, for my gay friends and for society, in general.

  2. Omigosh, this was the best day ever! Thanks for being part of it.

  3. Thank you Scott and Alan!

    Scott, the word picture you painted was so vivid I felt I was standing on the street with you…watching the parade go by…feeling the love, joy and unity of the crowd. Alan’s photos brought your words to life even more. Thanks to both of you. Job well done!!

    I’ve been a friend, ally and family member of the LGBTQ community for many years. Although it’s slower and more fragile than I’d like, I’m thankful and encouraged by the changes and progress I’ve seen in our community and across the nation. Knoxville’s Pridefest is a testament to that progress…part of the reason for that progress… and I’m grateful to everyone who worked so hard to make this year’s celebration a tremendous success.

  4. Michelle Feldman says

    It was a wonderful event. My heart was full.

  5. I’m coming out of the closet.
    Leviticus 18:22
    Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with woman kind, it is abomination.

    2 Timothy 4:3-4
    3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.
    4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

    You Know we hear a lot these days about so and so, so and so’s come out of the closet, you here that phrase all the time.

    Years ago that was a very strange terminology
    but now it’s like a badge of Heroism and honor
    that he and she’s came out of the closet, their coming out of the closet and everybody applauds and pats them on the back.

    Man, Woman, Boy and Girl….
    I’m going to Preach here for a minute let it be known for this day forward that Tony Vick is officially coming out of the closet….
    I’m coming out about the fact that I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it’s the power of God and Salvation.

    I’m coming out of the closet that I’m not ashamed of the word of God it is…the infallible,
    indescribable, incomparable book of all books, from Genesis to Revelation, it’s the word of God.
    Hello Washington, are you reading this?
    Hello Mr. President Donald Trump, you are doing a fine job at getting this country back on a biblical track, that’s for free and good measure.

    I’m coming out of the closet about the fact that
    I believe in one man
    and one woman for life.
    I believe in a biblical vow of Marriage.
    I believe that the sanctification of life is something that we should stand up and speak out for.

    I believe the local Church is the Governing authority
    that God has left upon this earth.
    I believe that Jesus Christ is not a way to Heaven…He is the only way to Heaven.
    Have you got any scripture on that preacher…Yes I do, I”m glad that thought run through your mind.

    John 14:6 Jesus Talking
    6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    John 3:3 Jesus Talking
    3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

    You still may not be convinced and that’s okay, my job’s to deliver the word of God.
    It’s up to you how you receive it and what you do with it were both held accountable.
    You say Brother Tony, That’s so exclusive…
    that’s so narrow minded.
    Well I’ll tell you how narrow minded I am
    I’m so narrow minded that if a Nat landed on the bridge of my nose
    he would kick both eyeballs out at the same time.
    This Country was built on Biblical principals, starting with God. Everything use to be about God.
    This country use to fear God, now we tempt God, dare him, try him etc.

    Let me tell you what Jesus says…
    Matthew 4:7 Jesus Talking
    7 Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

    I see the boldness of society on a daily basis
    and the Goverment gives their stamp of approval,
    their stamp of approval is the complete removal of God, take God out of everything…don’t even mention his name in the workplace.

    We all see how that’s working out for us…were in a mess, we need God.

    This Country’s been turned over to Reprobate.

    Romans 1:28
    28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.
    Reprobate isn’t a popular word or subject,
    it’s only mentioned 8-times in the New Testament.

    I think it’s time Christians come out of the closet and run towards Washington with the Cross in front of them….
    Run straight up on the White House lawn and dance in the spirit.
    Christians coming into agreement for a Tidal wave of the old time religion to sweep this Nation and clean it up in the name of Jesus.

    It’s time we stand up,
    speak out, stand out
    and don’t back up,
    pack up, slack up
    or shut up until we’ve been taken up by the Glory of God.

    You might say brother Tony this offends me, then get offended. Line your life up to the word of God and you won’t be offended.

    Say what you will about this Preacher and the Gospel I’m defending
    because it is the Word of God. I’m coming out of the closet because
    I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    Here I stand, here I live and here I die…I can do no other.
    I’m Tony Vick and I approve this message!

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Hi Tony, Thank you for coming out. I’m glad you feel comfortable expressing your beliefs here and I appreciate that you didn’t attack anyone else in doing so. For others who hold a different perspective and who may feel inclined to respond, please note that he expressed himself without venom. People who attack others will have their comments removed. People who disagree but discuss respectfully are not only allowed, but encouraged.

    • Thank you Allen, I am pretty sure we in the Bible Belt, needed this refresher. Your New Testament quotes are nonspecific or are from Paul, not Jesus. Just to refresh Tony’s memory though,
      Jesus said in John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Pardon me for pointing out that I am not seeing the love.

      • Love is telling someone the truth. Homosexual practice is an abomination and will lead to eternal damnation. If someone you love is running towards certain death would you not tell them?

    • I respectfully disagree with your beliefs, but am glad you felt comfortable expressing them. I am not a member of the LGBTQ++ community, but I find there is far more to be gained by including and loving these people than there is to be gained from ostracizing and demonizing their existence and lifestyle.

    • I politely disagree with Tony. I would like to start by saying that if you think Gay people don’t know scripture then you’re wrong. We’ve probably poured and suffered over those words way more than you can possibly imagine in an attempt to try and find peace with a religion that has told us that we do not belong. As someone who has been a pestering voice about Knoxville’s LGBTQ community and history for the past month, I would like to share another item. For anyone wishing to learn more about the most commonly quoted biblical verses to defend Tony’s opinion I recommend a wonderful documentary called “Fish Out of Water”. A Vanderbilt film student interviews people from both sides of the argument and does a very in-depth study of the historical meaning and translations of quotes that have more recently come to be used against the LGBT community. The film ultimately breaks down each verse by either what was actually said (failure in translation over a millennia) or who said it (Verses by Paul are not only anti-homosexual but anti-sex at all) or what the meaning behind it was intended based on the opinion of biblical scholars (Sodom & Gomorrah is more about failing to be kind to strangers and being hospitable than it is homosexuality. Also if we acknowledge the mobs intent to rape the angels then we also must acknowledge Lot’s offer to have his daughters raped instead and the eventual incest and rape that leads to them getting pregnant after they flee the city).
      And one last thing. I do take offense to some of what you say in your comment. Your “If you weren’t a sinner then you’d agree with me” style of writing means any response that is critical of what you say will get immediately categorized as inferior. I’m sorry that you felt the need to belittle Knoxville’s Pride celebration because almost 30,000 people disagree and I’m proud to call them allies and friends and family.

    • Alan, you have a lot of patience for allowing this on your blog. Sir, if you had actually read the Gospel, then you would see that Jesus himself had nothing negative to say about LGBT people. Love your neighbor as yourself. That’s about all I can say.

  6. Oslo Cole says

    I am so sad i missed this year’s parade. Everything i’ve heard is that it was the best one yet. Through your words Scott and your pics Alan, i feel like I was there. Thanks!

  7. Why does the author attribute to the current administration “apparent indifference to the rights of anyone who doesn’t look like its members”? This is just a meaningless slur.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.