pride

Organizers of the inaugural Louisville Pride Festival believe that celebrating diversity and acceptance should happen all year long and not just be relegated to the month of June, when most Pride festivals — including Louisville’s long-standing Kentuckiana Pride Festival — take place around the country.

Sure, June was extra special this year with the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, and it was an exciting and positive time in the city. But the seed for the Louisville Pride Fest had long been planted, and that energy, organizers hope, has created an even bigger event that will promote Louisville as a community that celebrates diversity, fosters inclusion for all, and embraces LGBTQ people and their allies — which is the organization’s mission statement.

The Louisville Pride Fest will take place Saturday, Sept. 19, in the Highlands — closing a section of Bardstown Road from Beechwood Avenue to Grinstead Drive. The all-day event, which runs from 11 a.m.-11 p.m., includes live music from local and national acts; arts, crafts and vendor booths; a food and drink court; and even a live art installation smack dab in the middle.

The Louisville Pride Foundation, the nonprofit group behind the festival, was formed in the fall of 2014 and has a seven-member board of directors, three of whom own businesses in the Highlands: Kevin Bryan of Big Bar, David Mattingly of NoWhere, and Rowdy Whitworth of Chill Bar.

The Louisville Pride Fest will take over Bardstown Road from Beechwood Avenue to Grinstead Drive.
The Louisville Pride Fest will take over Bardstown Road from Beechwood Avenue to Grinstead Drive.

While the Kentuckiana Fest is held downtown at the Belvedere each year, the Louisville Pride Fest’s vice president Omicah House tells Insider that the Highlands seemed like a natural fit for their festival.

“It represents an eclectic neighborhood with a vibrant commercial district, including many destination restaurants and nightlife locations,” he says. “Bardstown Road is also a place many folks are familiar with, so we felt it was a good location in terms of navigation and being centrally located.”

Since the announcement of the Louisville Pride Festival, many people assumed it was related to the Kentuckiana Pride Festival. But the two are, indeed, separate organizations. House believes there is room for two festivals each year, as pride should be celebrated throughout the year.

“The Kentuckiana Pride Festival had fantastic attendance and participation this past June. It tells us that not only is Louisville ready for another anchor event that celebrates pride and inclusion, but maybe Louisville is ready for even more than two,” he explains. “Many feel that pride — both in the LGBTQ sense and in the Louisville as one community sense — should be celebrated year-round with various types of events and gatherings all focused on what unites us rather than what divides us. Quite simply, bringing the many diverse communities of Louisville together for fellowship, fun and dialogue is always a great thing.”

Thomas Carrier (president) and Omicah House (vice president) of the Louisville Pride Fest
Thomas Carrier (president) and Omicah House (vice president) of the Louisville Pride Fest

The event also will act as a reception party for the winners of Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau’s “Say I Do in Lou” contest, Angela and Christy of Fort Wayne, Ind.

House says the outpouring of support has been amazing thus far, and many area businesses have stepped up as sponsors.

“Quite frankly, the outpouring of support for the Louisville Pride Festival has been overwhelming,” he says. “The public is excited to experience the event, and Louisville’s business community has come through to sponsor and participate as vendors at rates well above what we anticipated.”

House hopes the festival will create an atmosphere of love and acceptance for everyone who decides to check it out. And with a wide array of activities and amenities — from music to craft beer to arts and crafts — he believes there will be something for everyone.

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 9.44.26 AM“I think everyone will come away with a new experience, either through learning, meeting new people or broadening their horizons with a new musical act or piece of art they didn’t anticipate,” says House. “This event is not only a celebration of the LGBTQ community, but a celebration of taking pride in our wonderful city and how wonderful it is to call Louisville home. It’s about community and what makes the people of our hometown so energetic, welcoming and proud.”

Headliners include national acts Karmin, Steve Grand and Stacey Q., and local acts The Pass, The Deloreans, Bridge 19, Voices of Kentuckiana, DJ Syimone and many more.

The official schedule hasn’t been released yet, but stay tuned to the Louisville Pride Festival’s Facebook page for details.

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Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."