Attendance also on the uptick at vendor fair
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte Pride, slated for Aug. 24-25, has done its due diligence in securing a vast array of corporate partners this year.
At the pinnacle as presenting sponsors are Bank of America, PNC Bank, Scorpio, Time Warner Cable and Wells Fargo.
A host of other businesses — large and small alike — have joined the presenting sponsors this year. It’s just one sign of increased support for this southern city’s growing Pride festivities.
Charlotte Pride organizers say they have also seen a marked increase in participation by small businesses and non-profit organizations attending as vendors at the two-day event.
“This will be the first year we can say that we are a sold out event and currently have a wait list of vendors wishing to come in,” Charlotte Pride Co-Director Craig Hopkins said via email. Recruiting exhibitors for this season’s festivities appears to have been “relatively easy,” Hopkins said. From a single email to past vendors, the applications snowballed in. The appeal seemed simple. “From a business perspective, they certainly see the value in having such a large audience available to them over two days. This year we have vendors coming from as far north as New York City, as far south as Miami and as far west as Houston and Chicago.”
Organizers said they had received 100 vendor applications and over 70 parade entries. The increased interest follows the organization’s separation from the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte in January. The annual event had been held under the auspices of the center from 2006-2012. The center’s then-board chair Scott Coleman said at the time that the separation was necessary for Charlotte Pride to “continue its growth momentum, and be taken to the next level.”
“This new independence…allows us to focus solely on the growth and development of the festival,” Co-Director Richard Grimstad remarked via email. Planning for this year’s event started with no “start-up funds or reserve in the bank,” Grimstad added. Early supporters, like The Scorpio and a grant from the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund, paired with individual donor campaigns, gave the newly-independent organization the kick-start they needed.
Hopkins said they expect “somewhere between 45,000 and 55,000, based on last year’s attendance numbers.” The logistics in producing an event of this size has its challenges and Charlotte Pride has had to rely on its all-volunteer organization to make it happen. Hopkins said that they need for committed individuals to put in time to help to continue to bring the growing event each season.
To compound the challenges, this year the organization is staging the city’s first Pride parade in 19 years. “Despite all the organizational, operational and logistical challenges that come with developing and implementing an event of this size, we have been fortunate enough to see the support from our sponsors, vendors, volunteers and community grow with us, and we are so appreciative of this,” said Hopkins.
To prepare for logistical issues, Parade Chair Dave Webb said via email that they have “worked closely with the City of Charlotte and their various departments to ensure that we have addressed any operational and logistical issues.” Between the committee and the city, they have managed to work out all of the details necessary to produce a successful parade. Hopkins added, “Adding the parade this year has been just another opportunity for the community to get involved and show their support.”
Pride festivals are often beset by nay-sayers and anti-LGBT protesters and religious zealots. To counter this, organizers utilize Partners in Peace, a contingency of volunteers who have had specialized training in how to diffuse confrontations with hecklers. Webb shared, “Charlotte Pride (and formerly Pride Charlotte) has worked with this group for a number of years. They are a wonderful group of volunteers who strive to eliminate and mitigate any negative interaction among our parade and festival attendees and protesters.” The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police department will also be on hand to help “minimize any potential disruption during both the parade and festival.”
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