This year’s NC Pride Fest and Parade in Durham promise to be the most exciting yet. Last year, festival organizers said the event broke new records, attracting larger numbers of day festival vendors and a slight bump in attendance. Because of the election season, attendance might be boosted yet again.

Speaking at the festival this year is former Senate candidate Jim Neal. He made history running as the first openly gay candidate for statewide office. His loss to state Sen. Kay Hagan in the race to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole hasn’t stopped him from continuing to reach out across the state and make a difference for all North Carolinians.

According to John Short, longtime NC Pride organizer, this year’s festival will also unveil a memorial arch. The arch will be presented on the grounds of Duke University’s East Campus by veteran Carolina LGBT activist and national Obama Pride co-chair Mandy Carter in memory of Joe Herzenberg. In 1991, Herzenberg won his race for Chapel Hill Town Council, becoming the first openly gay man elected to any office in North Carolina. He died in 2007.

The festival and parade will take place Saturday, Sept. 27. The annual parade, beginning at 11 a.m., will wind its way around Duke’s East Campus and portions of Durham. Dozens of events, including wine tastings, coffee hours and nightclub parties, are scheduled for Friday, Sept. 26 and Saturday evening.

For more information on NC Pride events, as well as listings on where to eat, drink, shop and more, see Q-Notes’ Pre-Pride coverage at