CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After a historic turnout last year, this weekend, more than 165,000 people are expected to be in uptown for the 2019 Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade.
The event celebrates LGBTQ communities in the Carolinas and raises awareness for equality.
Open-air events where big crowds are gathering can be a soft target, so as usual, security is the top priority. Even more so considering hate crimes against the LGBTQ community and recent mass shootings.
People who attend Pride events this weekend will notice a police presence. CMPD has been working with the event planners for a long time. Organizers want people to know they will be safe, and they should enjoy celebrating.
Bright colors and waving flags will fill the Queen City as thousands send the message that love is love.
"This is supposed to be a celebration; we're going to make it a celebration," said Matt Comer, communications director for Charlotte Pride.
But, unfortunately, there can be an underlying sense of fear. Large scale events like these can be soft targets and as the LGBTQ community marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a reminder there's still more to be done for equality.
"It is completely natural for people to be concerned but also you shouldn't live in fear," said Comer.
The most important factor to keep the events running smoothly and safely is ramped up security. Comer said they are well prepared, and event staff has gone through emergency training.
"You will definitely see a space that is secure, but our primary focus is making sure this is a celebratory space as well," he said.
CMPD can't give away all their plans, but a big part will be help from the public.
"If you see something say something. We want to make sure that if it doesn't look right, if it doesn't smell right, if it doesn't sound right, that you either dial 911 or tap the nearest officer to you and make sure you get some help,” said Major Sherie Pearsall.
The festival will be on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. The parade is on Sunday at 1 p.m.