Durham community gathers to celebrate LGBTQ pride at night
NC Pride, even without a parade, remained NC Pride Saturday and into Sunday.
While Durham’s traditional NC Pride — North Carolina’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Festival — celebration moved across town and was turned into a street festival on Rigsbee Avenue, it didn’t seem to matter.
NC Pride made the changes, dropping its annual parade and festival centered on Duke University’s East Campus year, because the event fell on Judaism’s most holy day, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
But to those on hand, it didn’t seem to matter.
NC Pride’s street festival on Rigsbee Avenue — the parade is expected to be reinstated next year — provided a welcoming venue for those who attended the 33rd festival that’s been held on the last Saturday in September for the past 16 years.
That’s not to say there weren’t doubts about the festival’s success when the date for this year was finalized during summer. Still Pride was in the air.
The theme “Pride @ Night” and starting time also seemed to allay some misgivings about the conflict with Yom Kippur, which ended at sundown Saturday. Vendors were in place and selling their wares by 4 p.m. and continuing through 10 p.m. The festival then moved to other venues and ran until the wee hours of Sunday morning, under the sponsored name “Bud Light NC Pride Nightfest.”
A collateral, concurrent event was held in Raleigh Saturday into Sunday.
The site for this year’s NC Pride celebration seemed to work well with established businesses at both ends of Rigsbee Avenue. Motorco Music Hall and The Pit anchored one end of the street and both had a steady stream of customers throughout late afternoon and early evening hours. So did The Bar and the Central Park Tavern at the other end of the street. Fullsteam Brewery, near the middle of the thoroughfare, also opened its doors.
Len Stanley, a long-time NC Pride participant as a member of the Bulltown Strutters, said she missed the parade and the East Campus site, but she still thought the festival was a tremendous success.
“We used to go around 9th Street and Duke and it was fun,” Stanley said. “It seems comparable to past years. This is a very concentrated area. The businesses have been accepting and this is one of the coolest places in town. I think that helps.”
Despite not having a parade, the Triangle Pride Band still showed up and played some tunes in front of The Bar.
Conductor Jason Morley-Nikfar said band members still wanted to participate in NC Pride even without a parade.
“We marched last year and we were supposed to march again this year but since we couldn’t we decided to pop up here and play,” Morley-Nikfar said. “We have an exceptional group and we have such a good time performing together. This is our time of year when we get to come out and perform for the crowd and experience Pride with each other and everyone else.”
After their performance in Durham, they headed to Raleigh for an NC Pride performance in the City of Oaks.
“This is quite a day,” Morley-Nikfar said before departing for the capital city.
They weren’t the only group with a full day planned.
Members of the Triangle Gay Men’s Chorus were out in force trying to recruit new members in Durham. They followed up by heading to WakeMed Soccer Park to sing the national anthem prior to the Carolina Courage women’s professional soccer match against Orlando. And their final destination was Raleigh’s NC Pride gathering.
NC Pride is about fun, activism and politics.
Stanley used her time at the festival trying to register people to vote. Her list of new voters wasn’t very long, though. Most of the people she asked about registering already were on the voting rolls.
“This is an unusually registered crowd,” Stanley said. “That’s good.”
Representatives from Lambda Legal also were prominently working the crowd.
Several candidates for local and state office were providing information and handing out campaign materials and tchotchkes.
Only a few signs with blatantly political messages were hoisted, though.
One had direct message to President Donald Trump.
Another played on one of his favorite slogans “Make America Great Again” but said “Hate Does Not Make America Great.”