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Thousands of people with Pride flags in every hue filled the Big Four Lawn in Louisville on Saturday for the Kentuckiana Pride parade and festival.

Organizers said this year’s Pride was the largest in event history. Kentuckiana Pride Foundation president Rodney Coffman said the festival’s new one-day format contributed to the high turnout.

“We moved our parade to Saturday, which was our biggest parade with 10,000 marchers,”  he said. “I just think more people are here to celebrate. And let’s be real, I think mother nature and weather helped, too.”

It was the first Kentuckiana Pride with no COVID-19 restrictions since the pandemic started. Pride was canceled in 2020, and attendees were required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test when it returned last year.

This year’s event brought out returning attendees and newcomers alike in a celebration of community. 

“I wish every day could be something like this,” said Romello Henderson, who was attending his second Pride. 

Henderson’s partner, Matthew Gathof, had never attended a Pride event before Saturday.

Gathof said he grew up in a conservative family and was glad to be in a space where he could feel comfortable and celebrated. 

“Coming to an event like that with a bunch of people who are just like you, that’s what makes you feel like you’re following what your heart tells you,” he said. 

Henderson said he believes events like Pride help bring awareness to the continued struggles faced by members of the LGTBQ community.

Legislators in several states, including Kentucky, have passed bills that affect LGBTQ people, especially transgender children. 

Despite those challenges, Henderson said it’s important for the community to come together and celebrate.

“Laws can be in place, but they can also be changed,” Henderson said. “If the right voices are heard and enough people are backing a cause, anything can happen.”

Coffman, Kentuckiana Pride’s president, said he hopes the festival shows lawmakers the presence and power of the people they are hurting with legislation that targets the LGBTQ community.

“By coming out and celebrating and representing, they see that we’re here and that we’re not going away,” Coffman said. 

Many attendees said they see Pride as a way to not only represent the LGBTQ community, but also uplift and support LGBTQ performers and vendors.

Saturday’s event was drag queen Lily St. Drake’s first time attending and performing at Pride.

“It feels like an honor because I haven’t been doing it for long, but I feel like I’ve been pushing myself, so I feel like I definitely earned it,” she said.

St. Drake said Pride events help to show the wide range of ways LGBTQ people support one another.

“Everyone might do a different job, be a different gender or they might have different interests, but in this community, we are all one,” she said. “We all support each other, we love each other, we push each other.”

Breya Jones is the Breaking News Reporter for WFPL.