Charlotte Pride has a wonderful and long history of community support. Long before our founding, local LGBTQ community members were paving the way for future growth.
Pride or Pride-like festivities had been held in Charlotte since the 1970s, with events like carnivals and picnics held at a variety of locations, including UNC-Charlotte, Bryant Park and Marshall Park, the parking lot at Scorpio and The VanLandingham Estate.
Charlotte Pride was founded in 2000, with our first Charlotte Pride Festival being held in May 2001 in Marshall Park, in Uptown Charlotte. The first few years of annual festivals, which attracted between 2,000-6,000 attendees, were held at Marshall Park.
In 2005, a large contingent of anti-LGBTQ protesters caused disruptions and other controversies before and during the annual festival. Organizers of Charlotte Pride decided to disband the organization. Community leaders from a variety of organizations, including the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte, QNotes, and others, picked up the mantle and re-organized the annual event as the Pride Charlotte Festival. In order to control access to the event from anti-LGBTQ protesters, the event was moved to private property at Gateway Village in Uptown Charlotte from 2006 to 2009. In 2010, the Pride Charlotte Festival was held at the NC Music Factory, with attendance of approximately 12,000 visitors.
In 2011, the event moved to S. Tryon St. in Uptown Charlotte, attracting approximately 27,000 visitors for the one-day event.
In 2012, organizers hoped to add a parade to the event, a long-standing request of community members. The City of Charlotte had been chosen that same year to host the Democratic National Convention. At the request of city officials, Pride Charlotte organizers delayed the debut of the parade until 2013. The 2012 event, however, provided the opportunity for organizers to test-run a two-day festival. Attendance at the event, held one week prior to the Democratic National Convention, was estimated at approximately 45,000 visitors.
At the end of 2012, Pride Charlotte organizers and the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte decided to spin off the annual festival — and forthcoming parade — into its own, independent nonprofit organization. Remaining leaders who incorporated Charlotte Pride in 2000 transferred their authority to Pride Charlotte organizers who, in turn, reinstated Charlotte Pride’s status with the North Carolina Secretary of State and Internal Revenue Service.
The 2013 organizers continued the two-day festival model and added the parade, the first time an LGBTQ Pride parade had been held in Charlotte since the NC Pride March’s visit in 1994. Attendance was estimated at 80,000 visitors. The festival and parade reached a landmark 100,000 visitors at the 2014 event.
Beginning in 2014, Charlotte Pride also began to expand its year-round programs, building upon the successes of each year’s festival and parade. 2014 saw the addition of the GayCharlotte Film Festival, a former program of the LGBT Community Center. In 2015, Charlotte Pride debuted Charlotte Latin Pride and Charlotte Trans Pride.
The Charlotte Pride Board of Directors devoted significant time in 2016 and 2017 toward planning and development for the organization’s infrastructural needs and future sustainability. The organization underwent a lengthy strategic planning process, identifying areas of growth and opportunity for the organization. A result of that process included the hiring of staff, who have been tasked with assisting the organization in reviewing its internal processes and developing more organized, streamlined volunteer leadership teams. A programs director and communications director were hired in the fall of 2017.
In 2018, Charlotte Pride rebranded the GayCharlotte Film Festival, in recognition of the festival’s 10th annual event. The new Reel Out Charlotte expanded to a week-long event in 2019. Other community programs and activities were expanded in 2018, including the soft relaunch of Charlotte Trans Pride.
The 2018 Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade attracted 165,000 visitors. The event’s growth has continued upward, even after the parade became the city’s largest — in terms of numbers of entries and participants — in 2017.
In 2019, the previously part-time communications director was brought to full-time employment. Community programs and activities continued to see expansion, including a special commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and Uprising. Charlotte Trans Pride added additional activities, including an expanded Trans Day of Visibility Community Resource Fair and the first-ever local Trans Job Fair hosted during Charlotte Pride Week.
The 2019 Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade experienced record growth, attracting a landmark 200,000 attendees over the course of the weekend event. Pride Week also saw the addition of the first-ever Charlotte Women’s Pride Takeover; a one-time event intended to create space for women-identified people during the Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade weekend, the event spawned the creation of Charlotte Women’s Pride as a new program of the organization.
In the fall of 2019, Charlotte Pride hired two new part-time staff positions — a programs associate and a development associate.