2016 Blue Ridge Pride Festival will have extra security

The Blue Ridge Pride Festival will still go on this Saturday. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- In the midst of an election year with a polarizing presidential race, in a state dealing with the fallout from controversial new legislation affecting transgender people, and just months after gay people were targeted in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history--the Blue Ridge Pride Festival will still go on this Saturday.

Yvonne Cook-Riley is the executive director of the Blue Ridge Pride Center, and part of the team that puts on the festival. Now in its 8th year, she says she's not concerned about violence this year--and plans to combat any protesters by killing them with kindness.

"If they come in to our environment, they'll be met with love and consideration and hugs," Cook-Riley said with a smile. "And most of them are very uncomfortable in receiving that. So that is our weapon."

In addition to the usual downtown units patrolling for the Asheville Police Department, the festival will have a booth manned by APD.

Per guidelines set out by the city in the Outdoor Special Event Guide, the festival must also purchase 6 extra security personnel from APD at a cost to the festival of $40 per hour per officer. The number of officers that must be purchased by any event is mandatory and set out in the event guide.

Cook-Riley said she will also have about 40-45 volunteers working security at the event in plain clothes with radios to help coordinate a response to any issues.

"We have our own private security people within our group that have been doing this for years," Cook-Riley said. "And we're able to pre-spot trouble probably before it happens."

The event will feature music, food, alcohol and other beverages and about 135 vendors. The American Red Cross will have a booth at the event along with Mission Hospital and others.

There will also be an ambulance and another emergency vehicle near a triage area to take care of injuries in the case of any violence, which Cook-Riley says she doesn't expect.

"I hope everyone behaves," she said, "because there's no fun in trying to make excuses for somebody else's bad behavior."

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