The 2010 Pride Charlotte festival is slated for Oct. 2 and organizers of the event say attendees can expect new changes, better entertainment and cooler weather than past years’ events. These changes, they say, were the result of community feedback solicited through surveys after last year’s festival.
According to that survey, participants wanted an upgraded venue and more comfortable temperatures than an event scheduled for late July can offer. Pride Charlotte co-chairs Denise Palm-Beck and Jonathan Hill say they’ve listened to those concerns, and they’ve been hard at work for the past 12 months turning community ideas and suggestions into a reality.
Palm-Beck, who is a straight ally and mother to a gay son, has served as a former chair of the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte, Pride Charlotte’s parent organization. She says the N.C. Music Factory, where the Center is located, was a natural choice when they began looking for a new venue. One of the property managers, Noah Lazes, was very excited at the prospect of holding the event there, she says. The property is donating their space to the event.
“The Music Factory has always welcomed us with open arms,” Palm-Beck says.
At Pride Charlotte this year, attendees will enjoy a wide range of entertainment, including music from Pepper Mashay, Richard Cortez and the Charlotte Pride Band, as well as many others. Female-to-male transgender comedian Ian Harvie will also entertain the crowd. According to Hill, Pride Charlotte had 17 confirmed acts a month out from the event, plus performances from Pride Charlotte Drag Pageant participants and a slate of DJs who will spin all day. In addition to the entertainment line-up and other non-profit and business vendors, Charlotte-based Campus Pride is working with Time Out Youth and the Community Center to host its first 2010 LGBT-Friendly College Fair during the festival. It is the first time Campus Pride has held a college fair in the Southeast and its first time holding the traveling event in conjunction with a Pride festival.
While thousands of Pride Charlotte attendees will attend and see the festival and its entertainment, what they won’t see is all the hard work and hours given by Pride Charlotte volunteers to make the event such a success. It’s months of effort that often goes without gratitude or recognition.
Hill, who worked specifically on coordinating entertainers, explains that booking performers “takes a lot of negotiation.” Hill began scouting for acts six months in advance of the festival. He says it is important to pay attention to timing and scheduling, as well as making sure both the technical and hospitality needs of performers are met.
Palm-Beck, who has served on the Pride committee for four years, says it is amazing how such a relatively small group of people can “produce a very large festival.”
Though the task can be daunting, Palm-Beck is undeterred from her duties which include various functions from logistics and venue planning to carefully managing the event’s business needs. In the past, budgets for the festival have ranged as low as $46,000 to as much as $80,000.
Like all committee members, Palm-Beck and Hill serve as co-chairs in voluntary capacities. Regardless, Palm-Beck says she looks at her position of co-chair with the same degree of professionalism and importance as she would her day job.
Organizers say planning a successful Pride event is a tough job that requires year-round attention. After the Pride Charlotte festival, the committee takes a few weeks before they’re back at it again, working diligently to respond to the community and to make the next year’s festival an even bigger success.
In addition to the logistical and planning efforts, Pride Charlotte is also committed to ensuring a safe festival. To that end, Partners in Peace has been formed to prevent harassment or other interruptions by anti-LGBT street preachers and protesters who have made it a habit to make their bombastic presence known. Comprised of trained volunteers, Partners in Peace are able to recognize potential situations harmful to festivalgoers’ safety or wellbeing and respond using non-violent, non-aggressive tactics proven to quell anger or frustration from either protesters or Pride Charlotte attendees.
Other community volunteers — 75 to 100 of them on the day of the event — are in charge of securing and setting up vendor spaces, requiring precise and meticulous attention to prepared venue layouts. Vendors include non-profit groups, area businesses and, most importantly, the sponsoring organizations or companies that make Pride Charlotte possible. And, despite the nearly year’s length notice prior to the event, organizers say they’ll receive as many as 40 or more vendor applications in the two weeks leading up to the festival.
With their location, date and entertainment shake-ups, organizers are hopeful community members will enjoy the festival, as well as the other events scheduled to take place in the week before and that weekend.