Back for another year, the annual celebration promises more fun and a special celebrity guest
by Donald Miller
Randy Jones, a Raleigh native and former member of the iconic gay disco group The Village People, will take to the Pride mainstage.
DURHAM — North Carolina’s annual gay Pride march and festival is slated for Sept. 29. Under the theme “United for Equality,” a weekend-long celebration will actually kick off Sept. 28, continuing through Sept. 30 and will include events in Durham, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Morrisville and Greensboro.
“We’re expecting about the same size crowd this year as we had last,” speculates NC Pride Spokesperson Keith Hayes. “Around 7,500. What we’ve really achieved is a wonderful sort of stasis. The parade is as long as it can be. We have secured the maximum number of vendors we can, which is about 120. We’ve got a great relationship with Duke University, the local police and the businesses along the parade route. One of our goals was to build bridges with the non-gay community, and we have done that. We’re totally welcome there. It’s lots of fun and it’s really kind of a joyous event.”
One of the new features this year is the addition of some bigger name celebrity acts that will appear at events leading up to the Pride celebration and during Pride itself. Set for pre-party appearances at the Steel Blue Club in Durham on Sept. 28 at 9 p.m. are performances by Someone’s Sister and Disappear Fear. On the day of the march and festival attendees will be treated to performances by the Atlanta Fredom Marching Band, The Common Woman Chorus, The Imani Singers and former Village People member Randy Jones.
Jones is a native of Raleigh and performed as the original “cowboy” member of the group during its heydey. After the group left Casablanca Records in the early ’80s, Jones left the Village People, saying it was time to move on. It was, perhaps, a smart move on his part. The Village People went on to sign a contract with RCA and took a stab at new wave pop with their only album on the label, “Renaissance.” Although they would later resurface and see further success as a popular nostalgia act, Jones only performed with them again just briefly, preferring instead to branch out on his own and pursue independent projects. In recent years he’s released a new compilation of dance music entitled “Ticket to the World” and took on the role of God in the Off-Broadway hit “Sodom and Gomorrah.”
“We’re also very excited to have Sen. Ellie Kinnaird as our keynote speaker at this year’s festival. She’s been extremely supportive of the LGBT commuity and has been a long-time ally,” Hayes reports.
Re-elected in November 2006 by an overwhelming 74 percent of the vote, Kinnaird is now in her sixth term in the North Carolina Senate representing the people of Orange and Person Counties. She continues to push for good jobs and better healthcare security, for further campaign and lobby reform, for effective improvements in the education system and for a safe and healthy environment.
Leading off the parade as the Grand Marshall this year is Gary Palmer, the assistant vice president of community affairs from Replacements Limited. From the Triad area, Palmer’s selection as Grand Marshall is in keeping with tradition of picking a representative each year from a different part of the state.
“That’s why it’s important for everyone from all over North Carolina to attend,” says Hayes. “Because this truly is about the entire state.”
— For more details about NC Pride events click here for the schedule.