On Thursday, TriPride organizers announced plans to hold their next LGBTQ pride festival and parade in downtown Bristol, which they say will mark the first time in a pride event was held in two states at once.
After making history as the first LGBTQ event of its kind in the region in 2018 in Johnson City and then in Kingsport in 2019, organizers of the annual TriPride Parade and Festival researched similar events in other split cities like Kansas City.
According to their research, TriPride President Kenn Lyon said none of those cities held their pride events in two states at once. There are no other cities like Bristol in the country whose main downtown street — in Bristol’s case, State Street — is shared between two states.
“That’s the only one we know that runs right down the state line, so it’s unique in that way,” Lyon said. “Other cities have two states in them, but it’s not usually their main commerce area at the state line.”
More than 10,000 people attended the festivities in Kingsport and Johnson City. More than 1,100 people marched in the parades representing 70-plus organizations, and 110 festival exhibitors were present.
Lyon said he expects more people from both states and the surrounding region to attend.
“We’re really hoping to pull in more people from the Virginia side of this region that would maybe not have been able to participate when it was farther into Tennessee,” he said.
Organizers said there will be more music at this year’s festival to reflect the city’s culture and history as the “Birthplace of Country Music.” Lyon said there will also be a second stage at this year’s event for live music.
“We’re going to focus on the music aspect. Each city has its own trademark or emphasis, and Bristol’s is definitely music,” Lyon said.
As with previous years, TriPride organizers will schedule a series of activities during Pride Week leading up to the parade and festival on Saturday. Live entertainment, vendors, exhibitors and more will be present.
Events will take place in downtown Bristol and will be free to the public. Lyon said organizers will likely begin deciding on the live music lineup in February.
In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court federally legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
For a while before that ruling, Bristol was divided: Virginia legalized same-sex marriages in 2014, but they weren’t legally recognized in Tennessee until the Supreme Court ruling.
“I think we had dreams of being able to have something like this happen in the future, but at that particular point, we probably couldn’t have conceived it at that moment,” he said.
Lyon said he thinks the region has come a long way since then, and he’s proud to help make history once again.
“It’s incredibly meaningful work to be doing,” he said. “It’s something that touches our hearts.”
For more information, visit www.tripridetn.org, where more updates on the events can be found.