Wesley Daniel held his boyfriend’s hand as the two stood on South Tryon Street Saturday wearing matching rainbow suspenders while numerous festival-goers passed by.
Daniel, who moved to Charlotte from Alabama three years ago, has been excited since last year to attend the city’s annual festival celebrating the LGBTQ community, and said Saturday was an opportunity to display his pride.
“I’m proud of myself and proud of who I am, and who I love,” he said next to boyfriend Clayton Dellefave.
They were among the thousands of people who packed the uptown street for the start of the city’s annual Charlotte Pride festival.
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The event, which celebrates and promotes visibility of the LGBTQ community in the Carolinas, is expected to draw around 130,000 people over the weekend for the festival and Sunday’s parade.
Large crowds moved along South Tryon Street from Duke Energy to East Trade Street, stopping at booths where vendors offered everything from food and clothes, to information promoting sexual health.
All around, the signature rainbow Pride flag was on display. Flags hung from booths and draped around festival-goers, while the colors appeared on everything from clothing and stickers, to company logos.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts kicked off the festival from the main stage Saturday by formally proclaiming Charlotte Pride Weekend throughout the city.
“It is my honor and pleasure to have an official proclamation,” Roberts said, holding the document in her hand. “To help celebrate this amazing weekend, where you can be who you are, you can love who you want to love, you can use the pronoun you want to use, and you are welcome in Charlotte, North Carolina.”
The event began just a day after President Donald Trump directed the Pentagon to extend a ban on transgender individuals from joining the military. The move was on the forefront of several people’s minds as they pondered LGBTQ relations in today’s society.
“It should be better,” Patricia Holloway, one festival-goer said of today’s climate. Holloway criticized Trump’s military ban, and called for more acceptance of others’ differences. But she said locally, Charlotte is a welcoming place for the LGBTQ community.
Daniel said he has felt accepted in Charlotte, and though he is always slightly concerned with how his sexual orientation is publicly perceived, events like Charlotte Pride help ease those concerns.
“Anything celebrating us being who we are is always a plus for me,” he said.
LaVendrick Smith; 704-358-5101; @LaVendrickS