10,000 celebrate inaugural Tri-Pride Festival in Johnson City

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) - A  first of its kind festival- Downtown Johnson City was the venue for the Tri-Pride Parade and Festival celebrating the LGBT community and its allies. 

"Everyone deserves a chance to just be who they are," says Alasyn Mitchell, an LGBT ally. 

Thousands packed Founder's Park to spread a message of love and unity.

People within the LGBT community call this a historic day for our region. The streets were lined as the pride parade kicked off at noon. 

"The community here has always been supportive but it's never been active. And now we're active," says local drag queen Anna Tomical. 

While watching the parade roll through the streets of Downtown Johnson City, it was hard to miss the heavy police presence mixed into the crowd.

Agencies from all across the region came together to help local police ensure the safety of the celebration, even involving a THP helicopter to patrol from above. 

Johnson City Police Chief Karl Turner says threats for potential pushback from protestors sparked the hike in security. 

"Our concern was for the people who came to view the parade, the participants and for anyone who came to exercise their first amendment rights," says Chief Turner.  

A small group of protestors gathered outside the main event. 

Those who attended the festival were thankful for the police presence. 

"Hundreds of loving people are here to have a good time and support each other and about five people to hate us. We win. Love always wins," says Gaelyn Porter. 

Love, the driving message behind Tri-Pride. Allowing for a day to set aside the differences. 

"We're not afraid to be out, loud and proud," says Anna Tomical. 

"We're united, we are standing up for ourselves," says Hunter Harrison.

Event organizers say they want this to inspire a new chapter of inclusion in the Tri-Cities. 

"I can guarantee you that probably two-thirds of the people here are not LGBT, they've come here to say, hey there's a community behind you," says Tri-Pride founder George Chamoun.

"It means so much to me knowing I'm not alone in the world and there are people out there like me," says Jaime Maltese. 

According to Rob Batot, one of the board members with the TriPride organization in Tri-Cities, 10,000 people attended the festival. He said about 600 people marched in the parade. 


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