The return of Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade is upon us. A weekend-long event, the festival is set for Aug. 26-27, with the parade to be held on Sunday, Aug. 27 from 1-3 p.m. at N. Tryon St and 9th St. Organizers say that the Charlotte Pride team has worked hard to continue the event’s upward momentum, after the 2016 event drew more than an estimated 130,000 visitors over the weekend.

“We can’t see in the future and we don’t have a magic ball,” Board Member Matt Comer told qnotes. “The event has grown so rapidly because of lots of things. One of those things is that the city of Charlotte has grown.”

Though it will be a challenge to follow the year when the local LGBTQ community rallied against the notorious House Bill 2, Comer said that the rapid growth of the city will make its mark known.

“As the city grows, as the metro area continues to grow,” Comer said, “we get stronger, more vibrant, more diverse LGBQT communities, not only in the city of Charlotte, but in the surrounding metro area. That’s going to have a positive impact on the event and will likely mean that the event will continue to grow year after year.”

Of course, it isn’t just our growing population and prominence as a community that makes the Charlotte Pride board of directors hopeful. They know better than anyone that hard work and determination to improve is what makes the organization and its central event so successful.

One such improvement was made in planning VIP perks. In previous years, August heat and an outdoor setting led to some complaints. This year, the festival promises an indoor, air-conditioned VIP lounge. For $125, VIPs will enjoy the lounge, catered hors d’oeuvres, a private bar and entertainment, on top of the regular VIP swag and exclusive access at both the main stage and the parade.

Another issue that this year’s organizers worked to address was increasing the diversity of the event. Striving to reflect the LGBTQ community’s intersectional nature, Charlotte Pride pursues diverse representation year-round as well as at the event.

“Our program with Charlotte Latin Pride has been extremely successful in getting new volunteers involved, new leaders involved. They have grown by leaps and bounds,” Comer said. “What you’ll see at the festival is an increase of diversity on the main stage, and the community stage as well. That will give us the opportunity to showcase more diverse, more local entertainers.”

The community stage offers local artists a venue to perform before one of the biggest crowds of any public event. Over on the main stage, pop and R&B recording artist Deborah Cox will headline Saturday’s grand performance. Cox has been nominated for a Grammy Award, achieved multiple platinum records, and performed alongside Whitney Houston.

“Deborah Cox possesses one of the most powerful and versatile contemporary voices of our time,” announced Charlotte Pride on its website. “Deborah has been recognized for her longstanding commitment to various social issues. She is a recipient of the California State Senate Award and the New York State Senate’s Civil Rights Award for her efforts in the fight for human rights and equality.”

Also gracing the main stage and representing a key subculture of the LGBTQ community, independent multi-ethnic Latin pop/rap band LOS 5 takes another leap in their rise to stardom. The band has rocketed in popularity since their television debut last year on NBC’s “The Today Show,” when they were named Elvis Duran’s Artist of the Month.

LOS 5 has performed on Univision, at Fiesta Latina Miami, and the iHeartRadio Music Festival, where they won the Macy’s Rising Star Competition — among other performances. LOS 5 will release a Spanish-language EP called “Somos Meet Los 5” later this year. Yet, their bio says, television was just one major landmark.

“In early 2017, LOS 5 was honored to perform their aforementioned Spanish-language single ‘Acapulco’ live at the Tianguis Turistico Mexico conference for an audience that included the President of Mexico along with international delegates from 88 additional countries,” the Charlotte Pride announcement said.

Comer is equally enthusiastic about the other artists featured on the festival’s main stage. These include transgender rapper Katastrophe, YouTube rap sensation Cazwell, and Charlotte Pride classic drag performances. Emcees for the event are Patti O’Furniture, Big Momma D, Malachi and Delighted Tobehere on the main stage, with Delighted, Malachi and WLNK broadcaster Sheri Lynch at the parade.

Every year, the Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade reaches new heights, and this year will be no different. Don’t miss out on early VIP registration or free general admission on both days of the event.

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