DURHAM — It is a quarter-century worth of Pride. A history of community building, equality and awareness. During the last weekend of September, thousands of Tar Heel LGBTs will gather in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh for the NC Pride Fest and Parade.

The festivities include parties, social hours and a concert on Friday, Sept. 25, and the day festival and parade on Saturday, Sept. 26. The night of the festival and parade, clubs, bars and restaurants will hold their own Pride cocktail hours and the official “Embrace” nightlife parties.

This year’s events celebrating 25 years of Pride in the state also include official recognition from area municipalities. According to Pride spokesperson Keith Hayes, the Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro will line their downtown streets with rainbow flags.

“They are putting together a ‘town crawl,’ telling people to come to the farmers market, come see the arts center, come see this and come see that,” he told Q-Notes.

Chapel Hill will also play host to a familiarization tour of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, attracting travel industry experts and media from across the region. They’ll encourage participants to attend NC Pride events, and have a full itinerary for visitors including trips to area restaurants and a tour of the University of North Carolina campus.

Hayes said NC Pride attendance has been stable since 2003. Including all of the parties and secondary festivities before and after the day festival and parade, attendance is expected to be 10,000-12,000.

“At the parade itself, we’ve been drawing 6,000-7,000 people every year for the past five years,” Hayes said. “We usually have 10 floats in the parade and about 2,000 people marching.”

He said about 120 vendors will participate in the day festival on Duke University’s East Campus. Before the parade kicks off, NC Pride will hold a rally featuring several local elected officials and dignitaries. This year’s keynote speaker is Durham native Pam Spaulding, editor and publisher of PamsHouseBlend.com. (Click here to read Q-Notes’ feature on Spaulding in this issue.)

Spaulding is a well-known public figure in the Triangle area, Hayes said. Her presence at the festival is “emblematic of our efforts to be inclusive of the diversity of the LGBT population,” he added.

Disruptions from protesters aren’t expected, although some anti-gay organizations are expected to be in attendance.

“The first time we had protesters of any sort was in 2007,” Hayes said. “It took us by surprise because we had not been a protested event for all the time we’d been in Durham.”

Flip Benham, of the Concord, N.C.-based Operation Save America, has protested the event in the past.

“We’re thinking about coming,” Benham told Q-Notes. “We’ve got a lot of stuff going on, so I don’t know yet if we’ll make it.”

Primrose, Ga.-based street preacher Billy Ball, recently arrested during protests in Manchester, Ga. and a past protester at Pride Charlotte, has announced his group will be present in Durham on Sept. 26.

Hayes said organizers are working with the Durham Police and Duke University security officials to ensure safety on all sides.

“We haven’t had any physical altercations at all,” he said. “Most of it has been verbal and it has not escalated above that. The police will help us keep eyes on things and make sure nothing escalates beyond civil protest and First Amendment speech.”

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.