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Pride Charlotte set for August 25
Back at Gateway, event expected to be bigger and better

by Mark Smith
This year’s theme for the Pride Charlotte celebration is “United for Equality.” Now celebrating its second year as a project of The Lesbian and Gay Community Center, Pride ’07 promises a week-long slate of events leading up to the big blow-out that will be held at Gateway Village in uptown Charlotte at the corner of Cedar and W. Trade Sts.

While this is only the second year Pride has been a project of The Center, LGBT pride celebrations in Charlotte date back to the summer of 1978 when an organization known as Queen City Quordinators produced the city’s first Pride festival on a University of North Carolina-Charlotte athletic field.

Despite growth and gain by the city’s LGBT community over the next eight years — former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt showed up at Scorpio to campaign for office — the next Pride celebration didn’t come along until 1986 when Q-Notes sponsored a community picnic at Bryant Park. That annual event continued through 1992, with others following: a 1993 Family Reunion at The VanLandingham Estate; the statewide 1994 North Carolina Pride march; and the OutCharlotte arts festival, which began in October 1995 and continued every year through 2002.

The year 2001 saw the kick-off of Charlotte Pride — held annually at the city’s Marshall Park through 2005.

In 2006, Charlotte’s LGBT community came to a crossroads — previous organizers of the festival were ready to hand off control and The Center — along with the aid of Q-Notes and a handful of civically-minded volunteers — were ready to step up to the plate.

What was once known as Charlotte Pride was totally revamped with new leadership, a new name and a new venue: Pride Charlotte kicked off for the first time at Gateway Village.
With record-breaking attendance (an estimated 6,000) and groundbreaking sponsorship (corporations like Bank of America, Wachovia and Food Lion came on board), Pride Charlotte ’06 was heralded as the most successful Pride event to date for the region, attracting attendees from both Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Washington, D.C. and beyond.

For 2007, organizers expect a crowd of 7,000 or more and have planned an exciting line-up of events in the days preceeding the Pride celebration.

See pages 16-18 for details of all the Pride Week events.

Saturday, August 25, is the big festival, starting at 11 a.m. and going to 7 p.m. Members of the LGBT community throughout the southeast will converge on Gateway Center for a day’s worth of fun that includes a record number of retail vendors, organizations, a dance tent, a kids corner and a great lineup of performers and speakers. Among the speakers: Mecklenburg County Commision Chair Jennifer Roberts, Charlotte Mayor pro-tem Susan Burgess and Elke Kennedy-Parker, the mother of slain S.C. gay youth Sean Kennedy.

Hosting the stage for the day will be Cooper Lawrence, a developmental psychologist and the host of her own nationally syndicated radio show, “The Cooper Lawrence Show,” which airs weekdays on Dial Global, Monday through Friday, 7 p.m.-10 p.m. Cooper is also the author of “Been There, Done That, Kept The Jewelry,” “CosmoGIRL’s All About Guys” and her latest book due out January 2008, “Cult of Perfection: Make Peace With Your Inner Overachiever .”

She appears regularly on CNN’s “Showbiz Tonight,” FOX News Live and has been seen on “The Today Show,” “CNN Presents,” “Your World with Neil Cavuto, “Nancy Grace” and more.
Performers for the day include the LGBT chorale ensembles One Voice Chorus and the Unity Fellowship Choir, rockers Josh Zuckerman and Melissa Reaves, R&B performers Kat Williams and Jimmy Roland, acoustic fave Christy Snow (she’ll also serve as a host along with Cooper Lawrence) and the all-female quartet The Near Misses.

Sponsors for this year’s event are back strong as ever, with The Scorpio Lounge at the top of the heap as Presenting Sponsor. Other top sponsors include Bank of America, Q-Notes, Wachovia, Fluent Language Solutions, Food Lion, Velocity and US Airways.

— For more information about dates, times, sponsors, sponsorship, volunteer opportunities and booth rentals, visit www.pridecharlotte.com

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