In 2006, Raine Cole and Darryl Hall were members of the committee that rebooted Pride in the Queen City.
The group was formed in response to the collapse of Charlotte Pride following its turbulent 2005 event. As members of the inaugural Pride Charlotte Task Force, Cole and Hall helped make the slightly renamed, substantially revamped LGBT festival an unqualified success.
As the Task Force’s volunteer coordinator, Cole skillfully commanded an army of helpers. Hall was entrusted with oversight of logistics, a detailed job that included everything from securing permits to working with local government to ensuring that the signage was printed.
The festival was held the last Saturday in August in its new home, Gateway Village — a beautiful outdoor space that mixes green tracts with a large, covered stage and seating area. An estimated 6,000 people came out for the event.
Cole said the experience was humbling. “When I realized just how large the crowd was my first thought was ‘what have we done?’ But everyone was having such a wonderful time. People were happy. They were calling their friends from the event and telling them to come on down. That was amazing.”
Q-Notes publisher Jim Yarbrough served as co-chair of Pride Charlotte in 2006 and again in 2007. He said Cole and Hall were “outstanding” in their respective positions, which is why he approached the former to be his co-chair in ’07 and talked both into taking the reins for ’08.
“I pushed hard for this pairing,” said Yarbrough, who heads up development on the current Task Force. “I didn’t want to step down without being sure that Pride Charlotte would be left in great hands. Once Darryl — who took a bit of coaxing — agreed to co-chair with Raine, I had no worries.”
Hall, an architect with Happy Box Architecture, jokingly elaborated on the form of Yarbrough’s persuasion. “Jim twisted my arm until I had to give,” he said with a laugh.
Hall grew up near Pensacola, Fla., and moved to Charlotte a few years after graduating college. He’s been involved in the LGBT community in a variety of ways over the years, but leading Pride Charlotte is easily his biggest, most visible community undertaking.
“I never would have guessed how many aspects there are to planning a festival,” he said. “But, it’s worth it to create an event that allows the LGBT people of our region to come together and demonstrate to the public that we are part of our society in business, in culture and in social settings.”
Cole, a state certified paralegal who grew up in Northeast Charlotte, agreed on both counts. “There is a tremendous amount of work involved in planning an event this size. I don’t think a lot of people realize that it takes about a year — and a lot of sleepless nights — to put together Pride Charlotte. Is it worth the effort? Definitely. Seeing people enjoying themselves is well worth every ounce of effort.”
Yarbrough praised Cole for her positive attitude and dependability. “Raine’s a morale builder. You can always count on her to help you any way she can. She has stepped up to the plate with this organization time and again. There’s a sense of security in knowing that she’s there to assist with whatever you need her for.”
Due to the hard work of all the Task Force and momentum gained from the two prior festivals, the 2008 celebration will be the largest yet in terms of scale.
“This year we have expanded the size of our event to include the portion of West Trade St. just outside Gateway Village,” Cole said. “We will have two stages of entertainment, more vendors and a larger children’s area.”
The real estate increase was necessitated by the block-busting crowd of 8,000 that attended Pride Charlotte 2007. Asked for a prediction of this year’s attendance, Hall said, “We expect a strong turnout, but I wouldn’t venture a guess on the exact number.”
Cole added, “I think our attendence will be at least what it was last year. Attendance in 2007 was about 30 percent more than in 2006. I would like to see that growth pattern carry over to this year.”
Since a similar increase is quite possible, the Task Force has been particularly eco-conscious in its planning, looking for ways to mitigate the negative environmental impact of a crowd that might break 10,000.
They are working with Wipe Out Waste, a program of Mecklenburg County Solid Waste, to recycle water bottles, beer bottles and soft drink cans. Recycling stations will be placed throughout the festival grounds for the containers and volunteers will be on hand to direct attendees to them.
Cole said organizers are also “asking our vendors to recycle their cardboard and other paper, and giving them the opportunity to request a recycling station near or at their locations. Also, we will be encouraging people to use the light rail and other forms of public transportation instead of driving.”
In addition to partnering with the County’s waste management department, the Task Force has again worked closely with the City and with police officials. Hall told Q-Notes these professional collaborations remained “very good” throughout the process.
Yarbrough lauded Hall for his work in this area. “For three years Darryl has done a fanstastic job building relationships between Pride and the City, especially with the Special Projects Department at the Charlotte Economic Development Office, and also with the police. They respect us and work well with us and a great deal of the reason why can be directly attributed to Darryl.”
Concerning the police, Hall said, “I understand the immense challenge they face, especially in dealing with protestors, trying to find the balance between the right to free speech and the right for free assembly. We have worked with them on an ongoing basis to continue to improve our organization of the festival.”
With Pride Charlotte 2008 finally upon us, Hall has started mulling the lessons of the past year.
“I’ve learned that we are more accepted than many my generation and older may realize,” he said. “The cooperation and assistance we have received from Cousins Properties, who manages Gateway Village, and all the people with the city and county organizations we work with to set up the festival has been amazing.
“I have also seen how hard it is to do events or programs that target different groups in the LGBT community and still have a unified feel. It is a challenge that will probably continue for some years to come, but the Task Force will continue to brainstorm over this year after year to be as inclusive as possible.”
When asked about her hopes for the festival, Cole gave a nod to the past and the future while keying on the present.
“One of the goals of Pride Charlotte is to provide the LGBT community with the opportunity to just be themselves in a relaxed and accepting environment. I hope that our efforts will remind our community that while we are able to come together and celebrate Pride, we still have a long way to go.
“Also, I hope that people will take a moment to remember those who sacrificed everything and fought for the rights we have now,” she continued, “and that their example will be a source of encouragement and inspiration for people to join the fight for our equality.”
Given the same question, Hall responded succinctly. “My hope is that all the last minute organization falls in place and the festival is the success it deserves to be.”
info: Pride Charlotte 2008
Saturday, July 26, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Gateway Village, corner of West Trade and Cedar Streets