This year, the annual Mid-South Pride Festival and Parade is moving from Cooper-Young to downtown. According to the parade's director, Tommy Simmons, the new site means more room and that means double the sponsors and double the vendors. It has also had Simmons pulling a lot more permits from the city and neighborhood and business associations. "We're unique in that we hold a parade and a festival on the same day," Simmons explains.
The parade will be launched at FedExForum, led by Mid-South Pride's two 100-foot rainbow flags. One of the flags will be carried by members of gay-straight alliance groups, the other by members of multi-faith organizations. The parade will go south on Third, circle around to Beale, and then head down Beale to Robert Church Park, the festival venue. (If you catch sight of zombies marching in the parade, that's the Tennessee Equality Project protesting recent LGBT-unfriendly acts by the state government.)
The festival will include performances by Kaotic, Kenneth Jackson, the cast of Avenue Q, Sibella, among many others. Featured speakers will be Downtown Memphis Commission president Paul Morris, Congressman Steve Cohen, and Will Phillips, an 11-year-old from Arkansas who refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance because there is no "liberty and justice for all."
Simmons says there have been gay pride events, in some form or other, in Memphis since the late '70s. "Why do we march? To honor those who fought for equality and to recognize those who currently fight because we're still not equal," he says. "We're out and we're proud and we're not hiding."
Mid-South Pride Festival and Parade, Saturday, October 15th, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at Robert Church Park. The parade starts at 2 p.m. at FedExForum. midsouthpride.org