KNOXVILLE - Thousands of supporters showed their support for the LGBT community at Knoxville's Pride Parade and Festival on Saturday.
The event comes just before the two year anniversary of the Supreme Court's monumental decision on marriage equality ,and barely one year after the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando that killed 49 people.
Festival-goers said celebrating and remembering both events made this year's Pride Fest even more meaningful.
"I've never felt so much love and acceptance," Krista Bunch said.
2017 marked Bunch's third Pride Fest and first time participating in the parade.
"I have seen an increase of support among people that, honestly, I would have never thought would show support," Bunch said. "People are becoming more open, more accepting and it honestly makes my heart happy to be able to see so much support, especially in Tennessee."
Yet despite the progress made for LGBT rights in recent years, some say there's still more work to do.
"A lot of people were under the impression that when marriage equality passed that civil rights issues for gays were done, but because we do have the housing discrimination, because there's so much employment discrimination it's important that we have these gatherings and kind of encourage each other," Perry Stevens said.
About half a dozen protestors stood at the end of the parade with signs, speaking through megaphones. Stevens says they just help the LGBT community become even more tightly knit.
"It's not easy to listen to some of the things they say," Stevens said. "They certainly have the right to say them, but we also have a right to drown them out with our cheers, so we've been doing that too."
Mayor Madeline Rogero reaffirmed her support to the LGBT community.
"It just lets everybody relax and have some fun," Mayor Rogero said. "And you know when you're in the midst of a struggle, which we are on this issue, you have to take some time to celebrate."
Several festival-goers wore shirts supporting the victims of last year's Pulse nightclub shooting.
"It made quite an impression," Stevens said. "Last year at this time, it was a very somber mood because of that. This year we're still remembering them and we don't want anybody too forget what happened to them. That's one of the reasons we're out here."
Stevens says events like Saturday's Pride Fest are important because they help move the community forward, even through hard times.
Though Saturday's Pride Parade and Festival is the summer's largest event, Knox Pride will host other events throughout the summer. You can find a list of those HERE.
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