By Jane Wester, The Charlotte Observer
The 2017 Charlotte Pride parade just set a record as the city’s largest annual parade, and on Sunday, the floats went on for hours.
Nearly 5,000 people registered to march on Tryon Street, representing everything from Charlotte’s biggest banks to its gay bars and some of its churches. Organizers did not immediately respond to a question about crowd size after the parade Sunday, but Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police expected up to 130,000 people at the two-day LGBT festival and parade over the weekend.
“There are so many people here, it’s insane,” said Caroline Craig, a teenager attending her first Pride parade. Craig is a student at Charlotte Catholic High School, where she said not many people are open about their sexuality – making the big crowds of Pride particularly impressive.
“I didn’t know that our population of, like, allies and just our population of gay people in Charlotte was this big,” she said.
Craig and her friends posed for pictures at the intersection of Trade and Tryon, just a few feet away from a group of people waving Trump flags who arrived in the intersection as soon as the last float of the official parade had passed.
“Banning voices is un-American,” one poster in the Trump group read.
The Charlotte-based group Deplorable Pride had promised to protest the parade after being denied a place in it – a decision that attracted national attention a few months ago. Deplorable Pride was estimated at the time to have about a dozen members.
Most parade attendees appeared to pay little notice to the Trump group, though a few argued across a metal barrier.
This was the fifth year of the parade in its current iteration, and the event was peaceful, with young children and pets in heavy attendance.
In a shady plaza just off the parade route, Aron Roper sat with his medical service dog, Jack.
Roper said Jack has worn the same outfit – including fairy wings, a rainbow tutu and a rainbow bandana – to Pride for three years in a row.
Roper drove up from South Carolina for Charlotte Pride, which he said has grown noticeably every year.
“A lot of people, I even heard they were scared to come out, cause they thought it was going to get bombed or something. I thought that’s stupid. No one’s going to do anything to the Pride here,” he said. “There’s too big of a following and too big of an actual community that’s growing.”