More than 4,000 attendees filled North Charleston Riverfront Park for last year's inaugural Pride Rally, shattering festival organizers' modest expectations that less than 1,000 would show up.
Since then, Charleston Pride founder Lynn Dugan and other leaders stepped down. However, some volunteers from last year's effort picked up the banner, and they're not just trying to meet expectations — they're ready to raise the bar. A day of events has turned into three days, with an art walk, a film screening, and a drag pageant.
"Given the crowd, we thought that it would be good to spread it out over several days and attract even more people," says Pride Committee Treasurer Rob Lewis.
Pride festivals are regional attractions, so it won't be unusual to see folks travel from Raleigh, Columbia, Charlotte, Savannah, or even farther away. "If they're going to make the effort to fly or drive to Charleston and stay, we want to give them more to do," Lewis says.
The growing festival required that the group rely on more support from businesses in the Olde Village of North Charleston. Sharen Mitchell was tasked with finding venues for Thursday's Art Walk. "I didn't even have to ask twice," she says of each of the five pop-up galleries.
Misty Brady, who was on the committee last year, says she's looking forward to the parade and rally. "Just seeing the number of people last year was overwhelming," she says. "It's just an amazing thing that we're able to do for Charleston — showing the kind of diversity and awareness in Charleston. It's why we do this. To bring everybody together."