Happy Pride, Greensboro!
The 13th annual Greensboro Pride festival is finally happening on Oct. 21 from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. After rescheduling due to Hurricane Florence, and even after Tropical Storm Michael left over 90,000 in Guilford County without power last week, organizers of the festival are calling the festival “a rainbow after the storm.”
Co-chair of the Greensboro Pride Committee Kayt Stewart said she got involved with the Pride Committee because a few years ago her company Quest Diagnostics was a sponsor for Greensboro Pride.
“It was really important for me; it was right around the time of HB2,” she said. “My wife identifies as a lesbian. However, she dresses masculine (because that is what makes her feel most beautiful) and she was having a hard time with HB2. She was getting harassed in bathrooms, so it was really important for me to find a way to become involved and spread her story and struggle.”
Stewart said this is her first year on the committee and it “broke her heart” to have to help make the call to cancel Greensboro Pride in September, but she said it was for the best.
“We worked so hard and amped up our marketing this year, we’ve collaborated with other nonprofits and local businesses that support the LGBTQIA community,” she said. “So it was heartbreaking to make that call on that Tuesday before.”
Stewart said Greensboro Pride didn’t have a rain-date on its permit from the City of Greensboro, but she said the City gave them several other dates to choose from and were willing to work with the committee. She said she has been inspired by the supportive Greensboro community as a whole.
“Every single business and nonprofit that we collaborated with including you guys at YES! Weekly said ‘it is cool, it is fine, it is wonderful, we love the rescheduled date.’ And I think that it has, in a way, been this rainbow after the storm.”
Brian Coleman, vice chair of the Alternative Resources of the Triad (ART) and event/entertainment coordinator for the Greensboro Pride Committee, said this year’s Pride is set to be bigger and better than ever. Coleman said the only differences is that the festival was rescheduled for a Sunday instead of Saturday and drag legend Jamie Monroe couldn’t attend so Sonja Simone took her place.
Coleman said he first got involved with Pride about six years ago when he won the title of Miss Triad Pride (as his drag persona, Fuscia Rage). He said Pride is an event that is sponsored by ART, which was founded in the 1980s. Coleman said ART was originally intended as a help/suicide hotline for LGBTQ people in the Triad. Before the internet, ART also helped people find LGBTQ-friendly medical professionals, lawyers, and businesses in the Triad.
“It originally started in Festival Park (now LeBauer Park), and the first one was held with an attendance of about 300-500 people,” Coleman said of the first Pride festival in the area.
In 2015, Coleman said, the festival was first held on Elm Street with an attendance of 6,000 to 8,000 people. Last year, he said the festival saw 8,000 to 10,000. This year, the festival will be taking up more space downtown (on South Elm Street between West Market Street and Smothers Place) and will have an estimated 12,000 plus attending. This year is also different from past Pride festivals because the City of Greensboro and Mayor Nancy Vaughan issued a Proclamation declaring Sept. 15 as “Greensboro Pride Day.” Coleman said there would be music, drag entertainers, a fashion show, a Kids Zone for families, food trucks, and a new installment at the Greensboro Pride festival, the first-ever beer garden presented by Natty Greene’s, a sponsor of Greensboro Pride.
Other sponsors include the title sponsor Ralph Lauren, SunTrust, Blue Ridge Companies, Downtown Greensboro, Inc., The City of Greensboro, Greensboro Comicon, 100.3 KISS FM, YES! Weekly, Cone Health Foundation, Cone Health Inclusion Council, Replacements, LDT., Avita Pharmacy, Greensboro Downtown Residents Association, The Trevor Project, Lincoln Financial Group, Tech Triad, The Biltmore Greensboro Hotel, Cigna, BB&T, Procter & Gamble, AT&T, and the AIDS Health Foundation.
There are two stages, the Ralph Lauren Stage (South Elm Street at McGee Street) and the North Stage (South Elm Street at East Market Street), that will house all the performers and in between, there will be over 200 vendors and dozens of food trucks for people to walk around and visit.
Performing at Greensboro Pride on the Ralph Lauren stage is The Voice star and Greensboro native Vanessa Ferguson, Greensboro-based rapper (who has been featured on Breaking Bad and The Boondocks) Ed E. Ruger, North Carolina drag legend Sonja Simone, Triad Pride Performing Arts Choir, Emcees Fucia Rage and Kitty Litter, Heidi N Closet, Michael George Ross, Crystal Frost, Paisley Parque, KayKay Levalle, Chamo, Luce Skylar, Sauve’, Miss Pride Winston-Salem Malayia Chanel Iman, E.M. Shaun, Celestia, Latin Diva,Swaco Tha Illest, Ivy Carter, Que West, Penelope D Felix, Triad Pride Acting Company, Bryce Quartz, Cassandra Complex, 2 of Cups, Mere, Jazmin Versace, Chardonnay DiArmani, Elove the entertainer, Belladonna Dust, Giselle Cassidy Carter, Pheromosa, Ms. NC Gay America Shelita Bonet Hoyle, Ms. NC EOY Onyx Jade, Ms. Greensboro America Amazing Grace, Ms. NC USA Aurora Carlis, and Nonii Ryan. Performing on the North Stage is Adazia Wade, King Ramsey, Ferra Rimmington, Venus As a Boy, Scarlett Verne, Chellez, Malayia Chanel Iman, Jazmine Brooks, Dez Jetson, Chardonnay DiArmani, Monique The Plus Poet, Kimora Brooks, Twilight, and Ivy Carter. (For the full schedule of events, visit the Greensboro Pride website.)
Coleman said like the bigger cities, there will be multiple Greensboro Pride events occurring this week leading up the festival on Sunday. Starting Wednesday, Oct. 17 a cabaret-style drag show “Prissy on the Pier” will take place at Kitchen + Market at Revolution Mill from 6 to 9 p.m. There will be a special raffle to sell one of four exclusive Greensboro Pride “Pimp” cups. Coleman said the cup would be raffled off every hour, “and the Market will fill that cup with beer for the next hour at no charge to the person who owns the cup.” After the next hour, Coleman said that privilege goes to the next raffle winner who gets their own pimp cup, and so on. Coleman said Kitty Litter, Ivy Carter, and Fuscia Rage will be present along with other drag entertainment by Chemistry Nightclub. All the proceeds from the raffle will go to Greensboro Pride fundraising efforts. He said that Greensboro Pride board members would be onsite for a meet and greet, and the restaurant will have its full menu with first-come, first-serve seating.
On Oct. 18, the Pride Week Takeover was rescheduled at Crafted–The Art of the Taco from 5 to 8 p.m. and is hosted by the Guilford Green Foundation and LGBTQ Center. This will be an opportunity to dine with the Pride community as well as a chance to meet new people. On Oct. 19 at Chemistry Nightclub, the Guilford Green Foundation’s Pop Up Bingo and drag show will take place from 6 to 11 p.m. and is sponsored by Bank of America, Trevor Project, Greensboro Pride, Piedmont Doulas, AARP and Aspen Boutique. “The longest running Drag Bingo in the Southeast is back to celebrate Greensboro Pride,” the website states. “Join all of the POP Star Wannabe Boyz and Girlz for POP UP Green Queen Bingo, presented by Bank of America.” Tickets for students (with ID) are $12 (in advance and at the door) and $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at the Guilford Green Foundation’s website.
Also on Oct. 19 from 10 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. is the LaRue Elm official Pride kick-off party presented by Greensboro Pride and Endless Motions Entertainment. According to the Facebook event page, there will be a late-night menu until 2 a.m., drink specials, glow models, tunes by DJ Juice, laughs by Comedian Mattie Symone, a rainbow rooftop party and “awesome surprises.” The party is for ages 21 and up, tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at Eventbrite or by visiting the Facebook event page. On Oct. 20, Coleman said Chemistry Nightclub would be holding a day party open to all ages with no cover on the patio starting at 3 p.m. and ending at 7 p.m. Local drag entertainers will be performing and that night the pre-Pride party will feature Ru Paul drag queens Chad Michaels, Stacy Lane Mattews and reality star TS Madison. On Oct. 21 after the Pride festival, the Greensboro Pride King and Queen pageant will be held at Chemistry Nightclub from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. and will crown the King and Queen of Greensboro Pride for 2019. Tickets cost $10 for general seating or $50 for VIP tables. Other Pride-themed parties are happening around the city that are not affiliated with Greensboro Pride including a party at the Bearded Goat from 4 to 7 p.m. and a party at Boxcar Bar + Arcade from noon to 2 a.m. on Oct. 21. (For more information about all the Pride-related pre-parties and afterparties visit the Greensboro Pride Facebook page and Chemistry Nightclub’s website.)
Stewart said Greensboro Pride is important because Greensboro has so many colleges in the area and because of that, the city has become “a diamond in a rough.”
“College is a time when people start exploring their gender and sexuality, and often times come out,” she said. “So Greensboro as a city has been really supportive of that and specifically for Pride, it is a day to stand in solidarity.”
Stewart said she is looking forward to seeing the vision the Pride Committee having a bigger and better Greensboro Pride come to fruition.
“I am excited to see all types of people coming together on the streets of downtown Greensboro, smack dab in the middle, and seeing us all together,” Stewart said. “I am really proud of the community of Greensboro.”
Katie Murawski is the editor of YES! Weekly. She is from Mooresville, North Carolina and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in film studies from Appalachian State University in 2017.