August 17, 2014

Charlotte Pride Festival, parade filled with joy and pride

Thousands of people converged in uptown Charlotte on Sunday as part of The Pride Festival and the second annual Pride Parade.

Thousands of people converged in uptown Charlotte on Sunday as part of the Charlotte Pride 2014 Festival and Parade.

The parade drew corporate sponsors, City Council members, allies and members of the gay community. Parade goers supported the parade participants with rainbow-colored dogs, pink boas and signs like “God Adores You.”

The festival, which ran Saturday and Sunday, was expected to draw more than 80,000 people, event organizers said, though Charlotte Mecklenburg police Capt. Mike Campagna declined to provide a crowd estimate.

On Sunday afternoon, the festival streets were crowded, though pedestrians moved freely along the sidewalks, and police reported no significant traffic problems uptown.

The PNC Bank Festival Zone, which ran along South Tryon Street between Stonewall and Fourth Street, featured an array of business booths and colorful characters, from a woman wearing a shirt that said, “Is it gay in here or is it just me?” to a man wearing a vibrant outfit underneath a clear plastic dress cover.

At the nearby Wells Fargo Stage, between Stonewall and Levine Avenue, R&B singer Sevyn Streeter performed Saturday evening while LeAnn Rimes performed Sunday afternoon.

The Pride Parade, which ran along Tryon Street from Ninth to Third streets, featured several corporate sponsors, including a horse-drawn Wells Fargo stagecoach and a double-decker Bank of America bus.

It also featured a number of activist organizations, such as Time Out Youth and the Human Rights Campaign. City councilwomen Patsy Kinsey and LaWana Mayfield were also on hand.

Several churches made appearances in the parade, with signs like “God Loves Everyone” from St. John Baptist Church, “God Invites. We Welcome. All.” from Caldwell Presbyterian Church and “Discrimination is a Sin” from Wedgewood Church.

There were few protesters out on Sunday. A half-dozen people stood along Tryon Street, holding signs like “God Hates Pride” and “Pornography/Pathway to Hell’s Fire.”

For at least a few parade goers, their favorite parade participant was PFLAG, which stands for Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays. The Charlotte, Lake Norman and Gaston County chapters of the national gay rights advocacy and support group were represented Sunday.

One section of PFLAG wore mock race bibs that said “Love Wins” while another section held signs with the names of gay rights activists and supporters, including slain San Francisco city Supervisor Harvey Milk and President Obama. Family members also marched with PFLAG, including one woman with a “Love My Gay Granddaughter” sign.

“A lot of people who come out don’t have the support of family,” said Danielle Wynter, 28, of Charlotte. “But there is hope. So don’t be scared to come out because you may have support. You never know.”

Weston McNeely, 17, of Matthews also said he was moved by the PFLAG float.

“My family’s been so supportive every step of the way. That made it so easy for me to come out,” he said. “It’s great to see parents openly confessing their love for their kids.”

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