The Pride Parade is one of the most anticipated events of Charlotte’s annual LGBTQ+ Pride Festivals. One of the most colorful and recognizable aspects of the parade are the various floats designed and sponsored by local businesses, organizations and more. But what does it take to plan, design and construct one of these parade staples?
Matthew Davis works with Duke Energy, and the company has a presence in the Charlotte Pride Parade every year. He said it takes a lot of meticulous planning to create a float.
“There are only two float companies in the Charlotte area, and they are typically reserved for Charlotte pride almost a year out,” he explains.
There are various challenges to take into account when designing and creating a float, according to Davis. Some of these include:
- Working with a budget on reservation costs, decorations, company signage and volunteer refreshments
- Working with registration to promote the involvement with the parade
- Working with leaders internally to raise awareness of the company’s involvement in the Pride Parade
Companies involved in the parade have to select a theme for the float relevant to both the business and LGBTQ+ Pride. This year, Duke Energy’s theme for the festival is “Building a Smarter Energy Future Together,” and will include:
- A solar panel phone charging station and cool down zone with misting fans.
- Duke Energy branded merchandise, such as water bottles, yo-yos, first aid kits, sustainable cotton tote bags, koozies, pens and children’s coloring books
- A Duke Energy bucket truck
“We will have people in construction hats and safety vests walking beside the truck,” Davis offers.
The Charlotte Gaymers Network is the largest LGBTQ+ nonprofit gaming organization in the country. Jonny Saldana is the executive director and co-founder of Charlotte Gaymers Network, and his organization has a float in the Charlotte Pride Parade. This year’s float will consist of over 100 volunteers and a DJ, supplying music and bringing the sense of a party to Pride.
“We just make it into a huge party,” Saldana explains. “This year, our presenting sponsors are Broken Promises and Lost and Found, two nightclubs owned by the same group here in Charlotte. So both of their staff from both of those bars will actually be with us on the float and walking with us this year, which shows the diversity of not only our organization, but also the types of businesses and people that we work with.”
To completely plan, design and create the Gaymers Network’s float, the organization starts working a few months prior to Pride. From there, Saldana said volunteers work to build and decorate the large vessel.
“When we first started doing Charlotte Pride last year … I think it cost a few hundred dollars to sign up,” Saldana recalls. “Then we have to hire the company to build our float … then we start our volunteer drive and try to get as many people to come; we give people free volunteer T shirts for walking with us and participating with us.”
Every organization participating in the parade must also attend an orientation a couple of weekends prior to the festival. There, they learn about what the day will entail, including the following schedule:
- 9 a.m.: Floats arrive at designated spot in the parade line up, which is determined at the Charlotte Pride orientation
- 10 a.m.: Volunteers arrive to decorate and prepare for walk for two hours.
- 12 p.m.: The parade starts at 9th Street.
- Around 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.: The parade ends.
Participating in the Pride Parade allows for organizations like Saldana’s to show its unwavering support for the LGBTQ+ community. He said it helps not only promote the Gaymers Network, but it also allows for LGBTQ+ individuals to celebrate being themselves.
“I think pride in itself is an act of rebellion — It’s an act of resistance,” he says. “For a lot of our younger folks, these are people who have gone through severe trauma, who are very introverted … so even showing up and being at a parade with 250,000 people for them is a personal act of resistance … I think is is something that is very foundational for us — we want to break against the norm, we want to do stuff that’s new, and we want to do things that have never been done before in the city.”