Vendors lined East Main Street leading up to the Nelson Stage, and one of these booths included TriPride, an organization that advocates for social equality for the LGBTQ community.
TriPride will host the Tri-Cities’ first Pride Festival on Sept. 15 from noon to 6 p.m. at Founders Park, and the president, Kenn Lyon, spent his day in the heat promoting the festival and sharing with festivalgoers what TriPride aims to achieve.
“The idea behind this is to create an inclusive environment that everyone can participate in, especially to celebrate the really rich diversity of the LGBTQ community in the area here,” Lyon said. “It’s going to be a big event. Think mini-Blue Plum that’s LGBTQ-themed.
“It’s a way to express your own creativity and recognize that you’re part of a bigger community. You can feel very isolated in smaller places.”
Lyon, along with TriPride’s secretary, Ron Adkins, wanted to create a support system for the LGBTQ community and saw a celebration as a beneficial way to raise awareness.
“There’s a misconception about pride,” Adkins said. “People think that pride means that we’re here to flaunt who we are to the masses. That’s not the case. Pride wants to be just like you. Pride just wants to be included, recognized and equal.”
The board members view Johnson City as a home base for surrounding areas, and the festival has reached out to LGBTQ members as far away as Virginia and North Carolina.
“We went from just a few people in a room,” Adkins said. “We’ve reached all the way into southwest Virginia and as far as Asheville, North Carolina. We’ve cast a big net that we didn’t originally intend to cast, but this is the hub for all these areas.”
Lyon and Adkins want the TriPride Festival to serve as a ground where people can meet and celebrate two facets of life: love and being human.
“This is all about celebrating our diversity,” Lyon said. “The community has a large variety of people that make up the LGBTQ community. We want everybody to be who they are and to accept everybody for who they are without judgment.
“That’s what this is creating, that environment. To have the businesses, institutions and government offices all coming together to support this — that’s a beautiful thing.”