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Durham and Raleigh to host 21st annual Pride events
Organizers hope to top last year’s attendance records

by Donald Miller

A festive float from last year’s Pride parade.

Members of the LGBT community from across the Carolinas are expected to flock to the Raleigh-Durham area for a weekend’s worth of fun-packed, full-of-dance parties, musical performances, a vendor fair and Pride parade, as well as other exciting events.

“In 2004, an estimated 8,000 people from across North Carolina, across the Southeast and as far away of Ohio, New York and California attended PrideFest activities,” says N.C. Pride spokesperson Keith Hayes. “This year we’re hoping PrideFest weekend activities and attendance numbers will match or exceed those of 2004.”

In keeping with the tradition of choosing Grand Marshalls from varying regions of the state, this year N.C. Pride chose Ira Schultz, publisher of the monthly Out in Asheville newspaper.

“The North Carolina LGBT Pride Parade is a force that can unite all of the gay communities in North Carolina more than just once a year,” says Schultz. “The spirit, optimism and commitment each of us takes away from a Pride parade is one of the things that carries us through our work and lives long after the event. Sept. 24 will be a great of day of Pride unity for North Carolina.”

Once a traveling festival that has been held in such North Carolina towns and cities as Carrboro, Raleigh, Charlotte, Asheville, Winston-Salem and Greensboro, among others, N.C. Pride has maintained a Raleigh-Durham base for the past five years.

“What we’ve really achieved over the last five years has been amazing,” says Hayes. “We brought the parade to its maximum capacity — we had about 150 marching units and floats last year and it can’t get much larger.

“We also had about 150 vendors last year, too. I think we’ve hit on a winning formula for a Pride weekend,” he continues. “We have pretty full participation from Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham with events throughout the weekend.”

This year’s theme is “Equal Rights: No More, No Less.”

“Considering what’s going on in the country right now, I think it’s an appropriate theme,” says Hayes. “I think this is a particularly important time for us to come together from across the state. It’s about solidarity within our community. The larger the crowd we assemble will send a message to the straight community that we’re here, we’re proud and we’re a solid diverse community.”

For Hayes, the pivotal point of the weekend’s events is the Pride parade in Durham, which leads up to the vendor fair, also held in Durham.

“It’s really the hallmark of the event,” he explains. It’s always a real high for me to see just how happy people are. We’ve never had the protesting, right-wing heckling that I’ve seen in Atlanta and in Charlotte. It’s very positive, it’s very uplifting. It’s like our own little New Year’s Eve for us.”

Among the performers slated for N.C. Pride 2005’s festival stage are David Montana, Monica James, the Common Woman’s Chorus, the Triad and Triangle Gay Men’s Chorus, the Imani Singers, the Beartones and the Cuntry Kings Drag King troupe, among others.

As part of the Pride Night Festival, look for the Acoustic Girl Jam ’05, which will include performances by Lauren Lapointe, Patty Keough and Shanna Sharp at Legends in Raleigh.

Also at Legends is dance music artist Kristine W., who’ll perform her new hit, “I’ll Be Your Light.”

“I feel really blessed about my relationship with the gay community, I really do,” the singer told Q-Notes. “I’ve always tried to be there for the gay community and be supportive of people living their life the way they want to.

“Gay Pride is a time when everybody comes together and I think it’s really important to create a sense of community,” she added. A lot of times people feel like they’re very diconnected and I think the one thing the gay community has to do is stay united. It’s more important now because of all the things that are going on in the world. You know what they say, there is power in numbers!”

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