More than 5,000 Louisvillians showed support for Orlando on Sunday. | Photo by Sara Havens
More than 5,000 Louisvillians showed support for Orlando on Sunday. | Photo by Sara Havens

More than 5,000 Louisvillians gathered at the Big Four Bridge Sunday night to show support and stand in unity with the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting. Organized by the Fairness Campaign, the experience was awash with tears, hugs, song and genuine community bonding.

Organizers of this weekend’s Kentuckiana Pride Festival know the public might be reluctant to come out and show support, but they stress they’ve beefed up security with the help of the Louisville Metro Police Department, local officials and the Mayor’s Office, and will work hard to keep everyone safe.

“I want everyone to know it’s totally understandable to be concerned about safety. We as a society need to be aware of what’s going on around us,” says Rodney Coffman, director of the Kentuckiana Pride Foundation. “As for this weekend, we have an excellent security team in place … the LMPD, the Mayor’s Office are supporting the event, and (we) are working with several other agencies.”

Kentuckiana Pride begins Friday with the annual parade at 7 p.m. | Courtesy of Kentuckiana Pride
Kentuckiana Pride begins Friday with the annual parade at 7 p.m. | Courtesy of Kentuckiana Pride

On Monday, Mayor Greg Fischer tweeted that he’d like Louisvillians to show their support during Friday’s Pride Parade. And the Fairness Campaign reminded everyone via Twitter, “It’s never been so important to show our #LGBT #Pride.” They’re asking for volunteers to march with them Friday evening.

Coffman tells Insider he believes it’s important for both LGBTQ individuals and allies to show up this weekend. It sends a message that Louisvillians stand united and won’t back down from fear.

“Do not allow the senseless act of an individual to diminish who you are,” he says. “Be you. Be proud. Stand strong and know you are not alone. We will celebrate this weekend in a safe and secure event.”

Coffman says the shooting in Orlando was personally devastating to him and his Pride committee. He realizes one of his responsibilities as a leader of Louisville’s Pride festivities is to stand up for and with his community.

“The travesty that occurred has made me personally face many emotions, from tears to anger, but more importantly to fight,” he says. “What I mean by that — I refuse to be a victim. I refuse to allow this to push me backwards. I have come so far with my personal journey, and I will continue on my journey to be me no matter what others think of me and/or my community.”

Insider reached out to Fairness director Chris Hartman for a comment as well. He agrees with Coffman that we must unite as one in response to such a violent act.

“I expect this year’s Pride to be one of the largest ever, given our community’s tremendous response already to the Orlando tragedy,” says Hartman. “There’s never been a more important time to embrace the meaning and spirit of Pride than now, and we need all our allies to stand in solidarity with the LGBT people who have been deeply impacted by this hate and violence.”

So what’s in store for this weekend’s Kentuckiana Pride Festival? The party kicks off on Friday, June 17, with the annual Pride Parade that runs down Main Street from Floyd to Fifth streets at 7 p.m. Sponsored by Yum! Brands, the march ends around 9 p.m. at the Belvedere, where an evening of live entertainment is scheduled, including The Black Ties (8 p.m.), In Lighting (9 p.m.) and headliner Jordin Sparks (10 p.m.), the Season 6 winner of “American Idol.”

Jordin Sparks plays Friday night.
Jordin Sparks plays Friday night.

And on Saturday, June 18, the daylong celebration (noon-11 p.m.) continues at the Belvedere with more than 10 performances on two stages and over 100 vendors, from arts and crafts to community organizations.

Highlights include Grammy-nominated musician Mary Lambert who sings on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love,” and Meghan Linsey from “The Voice.” (The full schedule is listed below.)

Tickets are $5 each day at the entrance, and children under 10 are free. Pets are welcome, and you can bring blankets, lawn chairs, coolers and tents. All coolers and bags will be checked at the gates.

Saturday’s Entertainment Lineup:

• Titos Main Stage
12:30 p.m. — Lousiville Gay Men’s Chorus
1 p.m. — Center Stage
1:30 p.m. — Pandora Productions
2:15 p.m. — Indiana Queen
3:15 p.m. — Hank and Cupcakes
4:20 p.m. — Playmates
4:30 p.m. — Meghan Linsey
5 p.m. — DJ Syimone
5:30 p.m. — Mary Lambert
6:45 p.m. — Who is Fancy
7:45 p.m. — Amanda Lepore
8:30 p.m. — Brass DeVille

• Entertainment Stage
1-3 p.m. — DJ Donnie with Kewl Karaoke
3-4 p.m. — Karaoke with Kewl Karaoke
4-5 p.m. — Derby City Sister Bingo
5-6 p.m. — Purrswaytions cast
6-7 p.m. — Pride Bar cast
7-730 p.m. — Connection cast
730-9 p.m. — Mr. & Miss KPF Show

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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."