The streets of uptown filled with music and color as the annual Charlotte Pride Festival took place this past weekend. Two days of celebration wrapped up with a parade Sunday afternoon, with 170 parade entries and well over 6,000 marchers — a record high.
Rainbow and glitter-clad supporters and curious spectators lined Tryon and Trade Streets. Bright and imaginative floats went by, representing all sorts of North Carolina businesses and organizations, from Wells Fargo to The Convergence Riders — an LGBT motorcycle club from the Carolinas.
The event is now one of Charlotte’s largest uptown festivals, according to Charlotte Pride’s Matt Comer, with its parade participation now surpassing the Thanksgiving Day Parade. He said the event’s growth reflects a change in the city itself.
“Our growth is a testament, not only to how the city has grown, but more so is a testament to the growth and how inclusive and welcoming Charlotte is,” Comer said.
He said he sees it from city and business leaders. And as you walk through the crowd, you also see it from Charlotteans like Dawn Query Sonoski, who’s holding a sign that reads “Free Mom Hugs.”
“I’m hugging anyone who wants one,” she said.
When asked why she thinks free hugs are important she replied, “Unconditional Love — for all those people who aren’t getting the hugs from their mom.”
That warmth and welcome is why Brandon Lawrence and his boyfriend Marquelle Foy participated in their first Pride.
“Pride to us is just being able to be accepted,” Lawrence said. “Being able to walk around the street holding hands, not worrying that people are looking at you funny. You know? Living life.”
Foy added, “Being proud of who you are and being able to be proud without getting any negative feedback.”
Matt Comer said not everyone has the freedom to be proud of who they are. That’s why Charlotte Pride strives every year to make the festival a place where couples can hold hands and feel strengthened by the colorful community around them.