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What To Expect At Charlotte Pride This Weekend

Nick de la Canal

Charlotte's annual pride parade and festival kicks off in uptown this weekend, bringing with it drag queens, rainbows, and a slew of outdoor activities and live entertainment. Organizors are expecting more than 150,000 people to attend over the course of the two-day event - about on par with last year's attendance - and more than 6,000 people are expected to participate Sunday's parade, which steps off at 1 p.m.

The event has grown exponentially since it began as a small get-together among local LGBTQ residents at UNC Charlotte in June of 1981. Since then, the event has been held at various locations around Charlotte, until the last decade, when it set up shop in the streets of uptown.

In recent years, the annual event has become one of Charlotte's largest uptown festivals. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority says last year's event brought an economic impact of $4.3 million.

Also last year, the Charlotte Pride parade overtook the Charlotte Thanksgiving Day Parade as the city's largest parade. This year, organizers say even more people have signed up to march - some 6,000 in total - so bring a lawn chair and prepare to settle in, as the parade will likely take a few hours.

Here's what else you need to know ahead of attending this weekend's Charlotte Pride parade and festival:

Street Closures

Multiple streets will be shut down in center city over the course of the weekend. Tryon Street will be closed off to traffic Friday morning, and additional cross streets (4th, 3rd, MLK Boulevard, and Levine Avenue) will be closed Saturday morning through 11 p.m. Sunday.

Additional sections of Tryon Street and Trade Street will shut down for Sunday's parade between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Parking could be tight, so consider taking the light rail into center city, or carpooling with friends. Electric scooters or ride-sharing apps are other possibilities.

Charlotte Pride Festival

The pride festival will begin with an opening ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and Charlotte congresswoman Alma Adams are scheduled to appear. The ceremony will include the national anthem, the presentation of the pride colors, and an interfaith moment.

The festival itself will feature two stages for live entertainment, dozens of local vendors, outdoor karaoke, and a family zone with activities for kids. Food will be available, as well as alcohol for people of legal drinking age. Other features include an HIV testing booth and a Campus Pride LGBT-friendly college fair.

In addition, two drag queens from the reality-TV show RuPaul's Drag Race will make appearances at the Wells Fargo Stage on Saturday. Coco Montrese of season 5 will appear at 4 p.m. Aja of season 9 will appear at 7 p.m.

Charlotte Pride Parade

The annual Charlotte Pride parade will step off at 1 p.m. on Sunday and is scheduled to go until 3 p.m. This year's grand marshalls will be former Charlotte Pride board members, Richard Grimstad and Craig Hopkins.

About 6,000 people will be marching in this parade, up from about 5,000 last year, according to a Charlotte Pride spokesperson. About 170 groups will be appearing in the parade, up from about 150 last year.

For more information about Charlotte Pride and this weekend's events, visit charlottpride.org.

Nick de la Canal is the host of Weekend Edition on Saturday/Sunday mornings, and a reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal