The Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade will return to uptown Charlotte, Aug. 20-21 after two years of virtual and limited in-person events. The annual parade and festival reportedly brought a whopping 200,000+ visitors to the city in 2019, and is one of the largest LGBTQ Pride events in the region.  

The return of the event to an all in-person format in uptown Charlotte is something business owners and local government officials across the metro region will likely welcome with enthusiasm.

“Charlotte’s annual Pride Week is the principal celebratory event for our LGBTQ+ community and its allies,” says city Mayor Vi Lyles. “Each year, the Pride Parade is one of the city’s most attended festivities and it serves as a special moment of acceptance and camaraderie for everyone involved. For two years, I have missed the beautiful, smiling faces, the rainbow-decorated parade floats, and all the joy this event brings to the Queen City. I’m excited for the return of the festival and parade and can’t wait to celebrate … [this] August.”

Since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic in early 2020, the city’s hospitality industry has suffered financially: revenue from in-town spending, business travel, and out-of-town visitors decreased dramatically.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have indicated the COVID-19 virus remains a threat because of current and future variant possibilities and Mecklenburg County is still in a state of high transmission. However, the overall number of cases and deaths have dropped, prompting area residents and businesses owners to seek a return to some sense of normalcy.

The city’s event business and leisure travel is returning, with increased bookings at the convention center and several other major events moving forward with in-person programming. In all likelihood, should pandemic numbers continue to decrease as expected, an in-person Pride festival and parade could be a financial windfall for the city, similar to the last in-person festival and parade event in 2019, reportedly resulting in an $8.05 million economic impact, with $4.79 million in direct visitor spending with a sizable profit for the city and restaurants, bars, and hotels. 

Charlotte’s Pride festival and parade is the largest event of its kind in the city to bring large and small businesses and local and regional LGBTQ nonprofits together with the LGBTQ community each year. In years past prior to the pandemic, organizations frequently connected with community members seeking social, health, and advocacy services via the festival and parade.

Indeed, LGBTQ people from all walks of life have enjoyed the weekend event as a way to socialize with old friends and new, build community and meet with service organizations.

COVID-19, social distancing, public interaction and changing methods of working (depending on what you do – working from home or long hours spent wearing a protective face mask) have exacerbated already high-levels of depression, stress and isolation among LGBTQ people of all ages, especially in the face of mounting anti-LGBTQ legislation and rhetoric.

Organizers with Charlotte Pride are hopeful the return of in-person activities will bring about a renewed sense of unity and well-being from socializing and reconnecting with the community.

They’re also hoping for an increase in attendance from the aforementioned 200,000 at the last in-person event in 2019. An expansion to the festival zone area on South Tryon Street is planned, along with a change in the parade route. A wide variety of special community events will take place in the lead up to the festival and parade.

If you’re interested in getting involved

If you’re a qualifying community organization, a business or potential vendor or a gifted artist selling your creative works, applications for festival exhibit spaces and parade are now open.

If you’d like to volunteer, The Charlotte Pride Programs Team offers year-round community involvement potential. You can find more information at their website (https://charlottepride.org/pride22/).

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