While far smaller than Nashville and Memphis, the city of Knoxville is nonetheless the third-largest city in Tennessee, with a population of about 180,000, and it's also home to the main campus of the University of Tennessee, and it's one of the nearest cities (with Asheville, NC being the other) to the most-visited property among U.S. national parks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It has a large gay population that has become increasingly visible in recent years, and the city hosts a large Gay Pride celebration, Knoxville Pridefest, each June in centrally located World's Fair Park - the date this year is June 18, 2016.
The events making up Knoxville Pride include a number of parties, fundraisers, and other events taking place during the weeks in advance - here's a full calendar of parties and gatherings, which include a number of "Eat Out With Pride" benefit parties at popular community-supportive restaurants around town, including Cocoa Moon, Big Fatty's, Abuelo's, Boyd's Jig & Reel, Oodles, and Melting Pot. Events also include an Art Out in the City event on Thursday, June 2; a performance on Saturday, June 4, at the Bijou by the esteemed Knoxville Gay Men's Chorus; and a Knoxville PrideFest Picnic held on Sunday, June 5, from 1 pm until 5 pm, at Tyson Park. Then on the weekend before, there's the Annual Next 2 Nothing Swimwear and Underwear Show on Friday and Saturday, June 10 and 11.
Adding to the festivities this year is the ever-popular and gifted out country singer-songwriter, Chely Wright, who will be performing fresh off the release of her new heartbreaking album, Lifted Off the Ground.
The big day of Knoxville Pride is Saturday, June 18. There's the Knoxville Pridefest Parade, held at 11 am along downtown's Gay Street (yes, that's the actual name of the street, and it's a main thoroughfare in Knoxville) and proceeding to Worlds Fair Park, which is the site of the Knoxville Pridefest Festival, held from noon until 8 pm and featuring more than 100 vendors, all sorts of great food, and a slate of entertainers.
More than 20,000 attendees are expected this year.
Knoxville Gay Resources
For advice on where to eat and drink around Knoxville while you're in town, check out the Knoxville Gay Nightlife and Dining guide, which contains a slew of recommendations both for great food and socializing. A good general LGBT resource on gay culture throughout the state is Out & About, which although focused more on Nashville does have some resources and information on Knoxville. Knoxville does not have an LGBT community center, but at the University of Tennessee, the OUTReach: LGBT & Ally Resource Center has a helpful website with links to other useful local resources. For trip-planning advice and other ideas about what to see and do in town, and where to stay, have a look at the excellent website produced by the city's official tourism organization, Visit Knoxville.
If you're visiting this area for the first time, or coming from some distance, keep in mind that one of the more kitschy and fun theme parks in the country is nearby, Dollywood - run by legend and friend of the LGBT community Dolly Parton. The park is in Pigeon Forge, a 35-mile drive southeast of Knoxville, en route to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.