In this special issue of qnotes, we’re profiling all the great events happening across the Queen City as Charlotte Pride gears up for another successful year of celebration. In this issue, we also asked community leaders across Charlotte to tell us what they’re proud of, why they are proud to live here or what they’ve been proud to accomplish. It’s refreshing to see and hear from so many leaders about what makes this city a special place.

For me, I’ve been proud to be a volunteer organizer of Charlotte Pride for several years. I’ve served on Charlotte Pride’s organizing committee several times since 2008. Each time, I’m proud of what the Charlotte Pride team — all our organizers and countless volunteers — are able to accomplish. During the event, I look around and see smiling faces, many of them experiencing their first-ever Pride event, and I’m reminded of my first time at a Pride.

This year, my fellow volunteers and I have reached for the stars. The Charlotte Pride Festival, like last year, will take place over two full days, guaranteeing maximum exposure for small businesses, non-profits and sponsors, and ensuring more LGBT community members are given the opportunity to participate.

For the first time since 1994, a Pride parade has come back to the Queen City. Every year I’ve been involved in planning this event, I’ve heard the same questions: When is the parade? Why don’t you have a parade? When are you all going to plan one? I’m proud, finally, that Charlotte Pride will be presenting the first-ever all-local Charlotte Pride Parade.

But, what we are able to accomplish this year would not be possible without all the people who came before us — people who organized Charlotte’s first Pride activities in the late 1970s, qnotes staff who produced annual Pride-themed picnics in the 1980s, folks who came together to plan NC Pride’s festival and parade in Charlotte in 1994, those who planned the first Charlotte Pride in 2000 and those who came together in 2006 to re-form the event into Pride Charlotte. In addition to our feature profiling community leaders’ reasons to be proud, I hope you’ll also read our special online-only story exploring the history of Pride in Charlotte. It’s a phenomenal read!

Come Monday, Aug. 26, I’ll be sore, my feet will be blistered and I’ll be screaming for a vacation. But, I’ll also be so very, very proud of all the sweat, tears and, yes, even blood I’m sure, that will have been poured into making this year’s Charlotte Pride the biggest and best Pride event this city has ever seen.

I’ll be thankful for all the hard work put in by our all-volunteer organizing committee and all the folks who will join us at the festival and parade grounds from long before sun-up on Saturday, Aug. 24 through long past sun-down on Aug. 25. I’ll be grateful, as ever, for all those community volunteers who will have shown up to volunteer for one-, two-, three- or more-hour-long shifts helping us to keep the festival and parade running smoothly and on time.

When this year’s Charlotte Pride has come and gone, we’ll all look back at how large our LGBT and ally community has grown, how much awareness we were able to raise and how much growth our city has seen in its acceptance and inclusion of LGBT people. And, for all that, I’ll truly be proud. : :

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