The Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade has grown every year, organizers say, and based on preliminary crowd estimates in the hours after the parade ended Sunday, the 2018 event on Tryon Street set another record.
About 165,000 people participated during the course of the weekend, Pride communications director Matt Comer said, an increase of about 15,000 people compared to 2017.
This was only the fifth annual Charlotte Pride Parade in the event’s current iteration — it was re-started in 2013 after the city went nearly two decades without a parade for its LGBTQ community — but parts of the day are already becoming tradition:
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- It was hot. Rain was in the forecast Sunday, but the day ended up sunny and humid.
- Rainbows were everywhere. People wore rainbow unicorn horns, rainbow cat ears, rainbow tutus. Their dogs were decked out, too. Parade floats handed out rainbow beads and rainbow koozies. Even the Charlotte skyline lit up in rainbow colors.
- The signs were creative. “Jesus had 2 dads, and he turned out alright,” read one sign in the Myers Park Baptist Church parade group. The Queen City Harry Potter Alliance marched, too, carrying a sign that read, “No one deserves to live in a closet.”
- The crowd was diverse — racially and otherwise. Preschool-age kids in strollers lined the parade route, alongside teenagers wrapped in LGBTQ flags. Some big groups dressed conservatively in their companies’ Pride T-shirts, while others wore leather or glitter and not much else.
Charlotte’s big banks participated in the parade, along with some shopping mall standbys such as Gap and Nordstrom. A coalition of rugby teams marched, too, along with the flag-waving Queen City Twirlers. One float was based on the cult movie “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Kelly Brooks-Hailey of Maryland said this was her first time marching in the Charlotte Pride Parade. Compared to the Washington, D.C., parade, she said, Charlotte’s was smaller and a bit less interactive.
“But other than that, it was great,” she said. “We loved it.”
Parade judges were stationed at The Square, at the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets, but the 6,000 marchers turned the corner to end up on College Street.
Away from the noise and attention of the parade, marchers had a chance to regroup and enjoy the day’s sense of community for a little while longer.
A drag queen wearing spiky black heels asked her friends where her flats had ended up.
A woman who marched with PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) carrying a “Free Mom Hugs!” sign offered her friend a drink of water.
A man in a leather harness whizzed by on a Lime scooter, heading the wrong way on the one-way street.
Groups posed for photos and promised to keep in touch, and the drivers of each float towed their colorful displays away.
Charlotte resident Jack Heminger drove a Ford F-150 truck in the parade for his employer, EY (formerly known as Ernst & Young). He said it was his first time in a float group for a Pride parade, and he was impressed.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I’d march again, I’d drive again, absolutely.”
Jane Wester: 704-358-5128, @janewester