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'Coming back full swing' | Charlotte Pride parade, festival returning in-person after 2 years of pivoting plans due to COVID

After two years with no Pride parade or in-person festivities due to the pandemic, the Queen City's largest parade will be back this summer.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte Pride is ready to bring back all in-person pride celebrations and its parade in August after it was forced to cancel or pivot plans the last two years.

COVID-19 sidelined pride plans in 2020 and 2021. Instead, Charlotte Pride hosted virtual and small in-person events in order to curb the spread of coronavirus during the height of the pandemic. 

RELATED: 'We can make pride more accessible' | Charlotte Pride sees second year of virtual, smaller events as chance to include more people in LGBTQ community

However, in August 2022, celebrations will look a bit more normal. 

"Charlotte Pride and Festival is coming back full swing," Charlotte Pride Board President Clark Simon said.

Aug. 12 through Aug. 19 will be Charlotte Pride Week. Organizers plan to have several community events, gatherings and programs leading up to the big weekend. 

On Aug. 20, the parade and festival zone will line the streets of Uptown. 

"It's that sense of belonging, a feeling of owning your own space, of being celebrated and respected," Simon said as he described what the events meant to the LGBTQ+ community. 

"Charlotte is welcoming," he continued. "Southern hospitality is real and Charlotte exudes that. For us to be able to have such a large-scale event in such a centralized location with all these major businesses -- just showcases the acceptance and the forward-thinking that the city has to offer."

With the pandemic forcing many to live in a more socially-distant way, Charlotte Pride said the last two years have only exacerbated already high levels of depression and loneliness among LGBTQ+ people of all ages. 

RELATED: You are not alone | Mental health resources

The move back to in-person festivities could help alleviate those struggles by providing people with a safe space to hang out with those who accept them.

What it means to the community

It's welcomed news for Joshua and Elliot Jernigan and their daughter Elizabeth. They live in Indian Trail but have driven into Charlotte for years to enjoy the parade and festival. 

"It has been the talk of the year for us," Joshua said. "We've started looking for her pride dress, which is kind of like a ritual we do as a family."

The two dads said it's an important week and weekend where they can be themselves with friends and allies in the community and show their daughter they're supported. 

Credit: WCNC
File photo of Charlotte Pride festivities.

"Pride really means exactly that, having pride in being who we are, in being open about who we are, and being willing to go out and live within the community and find our place in the community and feel welcomed in the community," Elliott said. 

An impact on business

The Queen City's largest parade has drawn in roughly 200,000 people to Charlotte in 2019, according to Charlotte Pride. 

It brought in about $8.05 million in total economic impact, including $4.79 million in direct visitor spending, and 10,000 booked hotel rooms in 2019, according to Charlotte Pride. 

"The hotels are full, the restaurants are full, people are enjoying themselves," Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said as she remembered the last in-person festival weekend. 

In an exclusive interview with WCNC Charlotte's Hunter Sáenz, Mayor Vi Lyles said the in-person events will bring a boost to the city's small businesses who could use the help, while also showing Charlotte's true colors. 

She also noted it's the first time pride celebrations have taken place since the city passed a non-discrimination ordinance in 2021

"It shows that we recognize everyone individually, but also collectively," Lyles said.

Charlotte Pride is planning several events, organizing logistics and booth vendors for August, and will announce new details as they have them.

Contact Hunter Sáenz at hsaenz@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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