Happy Pride, Winston-Salem!
October is LGBTQ+ History Month, and the Triad is gearing up to celebrate with two back-to-back Pride festivals. Pride season in the Triad is just now starting with the Pride Winston-Salem festival this weekend in downtown Winston-Salem and the rescheduled Greensboro Pride next weekend in downtown Greensboro on Oct. 21.
Pride Winston-Salem is presented by Nissan and will be held from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. The festival has grown significantly since it began, and this year it is anticipating about 25,000 in attendance. The family-friendly festival is free and will feature over 100 vendors, plenty of food trucks, local entertainment and a parade. All of this will take place on Fifth through Seventh Street along with Liberty, Cherry and Trade Streets in downtown Winston-Salem. The parade starts on Fourth Street, goes down Trade Street and ends on Fifth Street.
Pride Winston-Salem has become a year-round 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a mission, according to the website, “ to celebrate our culture, honor diversity, inspire engagement, promote inclusion, provide community outreach, and educate our friends, allies, and supporters on equal rights for all.”
Kandi Villano has been involved with Pride Winston-Salem for six years and is the vice president of the Pride Winston- Salem Board. Villano said that everyone involved with Pride Winston-Salem are volunteers and said the volunteer numbers vary. There could be up to 15, or there could be 50 to 60 volunteers on the board, and even more volunteers the day of the festival. She said festivals like Pride Winston-Salem’s were inspired by the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City.
“Pride Festivals like ours are important for our community to be heard,” Villano said. “I look at Stonewall as our Revolutionary War, each year it is about celebrating who we are as a community.”
Villano said with the changes in the political climate, it is more important than ever for people to celebrate who they are, make their existence known and feel safe doing so.
Villano said this year, Pride Winston-Salem is doing something different than usual. Villano said since the youth is the future, they should be the ones that lead the Pride parade.
“Since our youth are our future, that is who our grand marshals are going to be, our youth,” she said. “Because we are a community, North Star LGBT Center’s youth group are going to be riding in the Wells Fargo stagecoach, and we are reaching out to other kids in the area to see if they would like to participate.”
At noon, the entertainment starts at the community stage, which features local drag performers, and the main stage, which features local bands The Genuine, Evan & Dana, and The Triad Pride Performing Arts Choir will also perform. The festival headliners are the 25-year-old Dragapella group, The Kinsey Sicks.
According to the website (www.kinseysicks.com/history), the Dragapella group “has served up a feast of music and comedy to audiences at performing arts centers, music venues and comedy festivals throughout the U.S. and internationally!” They have performed in an Off-Broadway show, Las Vegas, two feature films, three concert DVDs, 40 states as well as Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Australia.
Before the parade and festival, on Oct. 12, there will be a kick-off party for Pride at the Kimpton-Cardinal Hotel, located at 401 N. Main St. The party includes heavy hors d’œuvres, cash bar, “and the best silent auction/raffle in Winston Salem,” according to the website. The kick-off party will also give attendees the chance to meet the Pride Winston-Salem board members and 2018’s Miss and Mr. Pride Winston-Salem winners Malayia Chanel Iman and Baby V’lentino Knight Addams. Tickets for the kick-off will be $45 in advance (or two for $70) and $55 at the door.
Addams wrote in an email that being crowned Mr. Pride Winston-Salem was an amazing feeling.
“I relocated to this area some five years ago, and Pride WS was the first pride I experienced here, and surely I have been hooked since that very day,” he wrote.
“Pride WS believes in building the community and giving back, and it is such an honor to be able to use my platform, brand, [and] title as Mr. Pride WS to not only give back, but to also promote positivity, self-confidence, and encouragement to our community as a whole. Not to mention that Winston-Salem is the birth city of my wonderful fiance (DJ Bonet), and I also get to share my reign with my beautiful queen (Malayia Chanel Iman) for the second time in both of our pageant careers. I look forward to continuing to serve my community [and] a wonderful year of reigning and representing as ‘Mr. Pride Winston-Salem 2018’”.
Iman wrote in an email that she feels honored to be crowned Miss Pride Winston-Salem.
“When you have pride in yourself as well as your community, and you have worked hard to gain the opportunity to be one of the faces of Pride Winston-Salem and be that advocate for the community it is such a great feeling,” she wrote. “With my king by my side, I look forward to a great year and a wonderful pride festival this year, and I hope to see you all out at the many functions that Pride Winston- Salem will be having this weekend and throughout the year. So keep your eyes out because you don’t want to miss a thing.”
Closing out Pride is the 9 p.m. (doors open at 8 p.m.) afterparty at The Hawthorne Inn & Conference Center, located at 420 High St. Villano said the afterparty goes until 2 a.m., is open to those 18 years and up (Villano said you must be age 21 and up to drink), and the Kinsey Sicks will be there performing a more adult-friendly show for the afterparty.
DJ Gary and pop-up drag performers are also on the bill. Tickets for the afterparty are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
Villano said the biggest challenge Pride Winston-Salem is facing right now is the construction and closings on Interstate 40, specifically near Broad Street. Villano said traffic and getting to downtown is going to be a headache, so people should plan accordingly. She suggests using the app Waze to navigate through the traffic. She said the Cherry Street parking deck is the safest deck to park because it is close by and open the latest.
“We are opposite Furniture Market,” she said. “So if anyone is looking for a hotel room, there are no hotel rooms. It used to be a detriment to us, but it is working to be a benefit. It is pulling people in from High Point, and it has gotten our face on the map, to the point that Visit Winston-Salem is now one of our sponsors. We have gone from being an annoyance on the street to getting the community involved.”
Villano said that LGBTQ+ community isn’t the only ones excited for Pride and that straight allies look forward to the festival just as much.
“There was one lady that told me the other day that she prefers to go to Pride versus the fair,” Villano said. “It is cheaper, and most of our vendors are locals.”
There will be beer and wine sold at the festival and managed by The Official 2nd And Green Tavern. There will also be beer and wine stations within the festival footprint.
“Between the two bars across the street from each other and the restaurants, there are plenty of places to get beer, liquor and coffee,” she said.
Villano said the highlight of Pride for her is seeing people with their children enjoying the festival.
“Or we get people that say ‘thank you very much for doing this, I feel like I have a safe spot once a year, where I can just be me,’” she said.
She said that there will be the Baby + Co. Kids Zone located on Trade Street that will have a bounce house, face painting and crafts for kids. And, hopefully, Villano said there will be someone making I.D. cards for transgender kids and adults in the community.
Villano said that the Progressive Parents should be at the festival giving out hugs to people who need it most, and for folks who don’t have a family that accepts them for who they are.
“Basically, because so many people get thrown out of their house, and they have not been hugged, [Progressive Parents’] whole purpose is to hug you,” she said. “As you are running around and if you just need a hug? They will give you a hug.”
Villano said for people to come out and be their true selves at Pride Winston-Salem.
“It is one of the few places you can go and just have fun and not have to worry,” she said. “Everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe, but love is love.”
The festival and parade is rain or shine, and tickets for the kick-off party and afterparty can be purchased online at www.tickettailor.com/events/pridewinstonsalem/199988# and www.tickettailor.com/events/pridewinstonsalem/200616/, respectively. For more information, keep up with Pride Winston-Salem’s Facebook page and website www.pridews.org/.
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.