BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — A festival meant to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community in Blount County is set to kick off at 1 p.m. on Sept. 2.
Blount Pride, a recently formed 501(c)(3) organization, is organizing the festival. It will be at the Claxton Center for the Arts, and it will be the third-annual Pride festival in the Blount County community.
"I know as a young person, I didn't feel that it was possible. A lot of us grew up with dreams of moving away where it is nice and safe, and there's access to resources — and all of that can exist right here, right? I think that is our goal with Blount Pride," said Ari Baker, the president of the Blount Pride Board.
The gates will open at 1 p.m. with a makers' market, kids' activities, and a community resources fair. Soon after, attendees will be able to enjoy performances on the main stage and at the plaza.
"We want LGBT folks, and especially LGBT youth, to know that there are resources in this community. There are people that will love them just as they are in this community and that they can build a good and full and connected life in Blount County," said Baker.
The Rock and Metal Academy will take to the plaza at 1:30 p.m. before the Appalachian Equality Chorus begins singing on the main stage.
Capping off the event will be Flamy Grant, a drag artist whose album "Bible Belt Baby" topped the iTunes Christian music charts in late July. According to her website, it's also the world's first contemporary Christian music record by a drag performer.
She will perform at 7 p.m. on the main stage. A full schedule for the events on Sept. 2 is available below.
- 1 p.m. - Gates open
- 1:30 p.m. (Plaza) - Rock and Metal Academy
- 2 p.m. (Main Stage) - Appalachian Equality Chorus
- 2:30 p.m. (Plaza) - Drag Queen Storytime
- 3 p.m. (Main Stage) - jaqhoney performs
- 3:30 p.m. (Main Stage) - Comedy Revue
- 4 p.m. (Main Stage) - Mother Genevieve performs
- 4:30 p.m. (Main Stage) - Drag revue
- 6:30 p.m. (Main Stage) - Jordan Albright performs
- 7 p.m. (Main Stage) - Flamy Grant performs
- 7:30 p.m. - Gates close
Organizers also said they were looking for volunteers to help set up and host the event. An online form is available for anyone interested in volunteering for the event, and organizers said they were hoping to collect applications to volunteer by Friday.
"We're hoping to make our schedule this weekend and get it out to folks and confirm everybody's shifts next week," said Baker.
The event will be free to attend. The festival's slogan is, "There's Pride in Them/Their Hills."
In the days leading up to the festival, Ryan Desmond, the Blount County District Attorney, sent a letter warning the county would enforce an anti-drag law that was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in the Memphis area. Following that letter, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General.
On Friday, another federal judge in East Tennessee issued an injunction barring Blount County from enforcing the anti-drag law. As the lawsuit goes through the court, Blount Pride said the event would go on as planned.