event in new location expects to attract large crowd
by Mark Smith
Gateway Center, PRIDE Charlotte festival site
CHARLOTTE — Pride
celebrations in Charlotte date back to the late ’70s, with events
held at the UNC-Charlotte, Bryant Park and Marshall Park, the parking
lot at Scorpio and The VanLandingham Estate.
Those events have been produced by various individuals and organizations
over the years.
PRIDE Charlotte 2006 marks a first on two fronts: the Gateway Village location
and the fact it is now officially under the guidance of the city’s
Lesbian and Gay Community Center.
“I think it’s extremely important for this event to be under
our direction,” says Center Board Chair Joe Campos. “The Center
is the public face of the LGBT community. It’s the one place that
allows us to work together and have a sense of community. It shows us and
the rest of the city how we can accomplish our goals and things that are
important to us. It truly is the foundation for the LGBT community, so
for the Center to take over Pride is a natural fit.”
Campos goes on to explain how important the development is not just for
Charlotte’s LGBT community, but for the Center as well.
“It’s an excellent program for the community center,” Campos
explains. “It will be one of its prime programs and I think it will
help clearly illustrate the mission of the Center.”
When PRIDE Charlotte Task Force co-chairs Laura Witkowski and Jim Yarbrough
announced at a press conference last May 5 that the city’s annual
Pride celebration was changing dates and locations, they knew they had
months of work and planning ahead of them.
Working together with a 12-member task force, the newly-formed organization
struggled at first, trying to pick up the pieces left behind by the previous
A new date was chosen. Multiple locations were reviewed. Some volunteers
resigned. More volunteers came on board. Finally a location was nailed
Then it was fundraising time.
PRIDE Charlotte Task Force members began to reach out to local individuals,
business owners, clubs and corporate Charlotte. Many responded eagerly,
donating much-needed funds to keep the event afloat.
Scorpio nightclub was the first major corporate donor to get on board.
At press time, additional major donors include Bank of America, Q-Notes
Now it’s clear that all the effort has finally paid off, as the PRIDE
Charlotte festival will officially kick off Monday, Aug. 21 with a presentation
by the Metropolitan Community Church-Charlotte’s Rev. Mick Hinson,
entitled “Homosexuality and the Scriptures” at The Charlotte
Lesbian & Gay Community Center.
The week-long celebration continues with a film screening and panel discussion,
a special drag performance night at Scorpio (a “Miss PRIDE Charlotte” contest
will also be held there later in the week) and a gay comedy night at The
Perch. Pride-related parties will also take place at The Charlotte Eagle,
The Woodshed and Liaisons (see events calendar).
The Takeover Friday crew will host a Pride weekend kick-off party at the
Westin Hotel Aug. 25, leading up to the big day on Aug. 26 when PRIDE Charlotte’s
main day of festivities takes place at Gateway Village, located in uptown
Charlotte, at the corner of West Trade and Cedar Streets.
“We’re extremely excited that PRIDE Charlotte will be held
at Gateway Village,” says Witkowski. “It’s a wonderful
site,” Yarbrough concurs. “It’s privately-owned, yet
highly visible in a downtown location that blends architecture with landscape,
covered space and open air space with plenty of room for vendors, speakers
As to the future of the event, organizers are unclear as to possible venue
and date changes.
“There is a distinct possibility that we will very quickly outgrow
the size of the Gateway location,” says Yarbrough. “But we’ll
cross that bridge when we come to it.”
“I think many people would prefer the event be held in May or June,
so that’s something we’re looking at for next year,” says
Campos agrees. “We’re just happy that the PRIDE Charlotte Task
Force was able to pull this all together,” he says. “For next
year, though, I think I’d prefer to see it back in May or June.”
One thing’s for sure — no matter what the date or location — PRIDE
Charlotte will be back again next year and every year for the foreseeable
“Charlotte has changed so drastically in just the past five years — it’s
a very open and accepting place,” says Campos. “With new people
arriving here every day from other parts of the country, Pride shows people
how diverse and accepting the city is.
“In the years to come I think it will take on a significantly larger
role, not just for the community, but for the city itself because an event
like this allows us to celebrate our challenges and diversity. It allows
the community to really showcase itself. It shows that Charlotte and the
rest of the south is not as it once was and is a desirable place for all