In the years since the first Charleston Pride Festival took place in 2010, the event has gone from a single-day celebration in Park Circle to a full-fledged week of events centered around a parade in downtown Charleston.
According to Chase Glenn, chief operating officer of Pride, officials in both cities were supportive from the get-go — particularly North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, who cleared the way for a celebration in Riverfront Park. And, remarkably, Glenn says he has seen no more than 10 protesters in Pride's entire history — "And they were the worst protesters I've ever seen," he adds.
"Some people would think Charleston wouldn't be as supportive, being a Southern city, but it's been very positive," he says.
This year's festival events range from educational to plain old fun, and they start with a night at The Joe. In a tribute to Pride Week, the RiverDogs will don vintage Charleston Rainbows uniforms, which haven't seen the light of day since 1993 and auction them off during the game. The event is co-sponsored by Dudley's and MyTV Charleston, but Glenn says the idea actually came from the RiverDogs' management.
Glenn says a baseball game is a perfect way to set the tone for Pride. "We don't want the festival to be just about young people and crazy parties," Glenn says. "That's not at all our identity. We wanted to encourage the whole family to come out."
Other family-friendly events include a picnic on Folly Beach (Aug. 4 at 3:30 p.m.) and a Takeover Charleston event at DIG in the Park (Aug. 7 at 6 p.m.). Other events will take a more serious tone.
For example, Chief Crystal Moore, the first out lesbian police chief of Latta, S.C., will give a talk during the Aug. 6 meeting of the Alliance For Full Acceptance. Moore made national news headlines earlier this year when she was apparently fired by a mayor who didn't approve of her "lifestyle" and again when the town voted to overrule the mayor and bring Moore back.
Another serious event will be the free screening of Bridegroom, an award-winning documentary about one gay couple's struggle with visitation rights and family strife following a tragic accident. Shane Bitney Crone, the surviving member of the couple featured in the film, will speak at the screening.
"It's a really important reminder that we aren't there yet on rights," Glenn says. "We're seeing really great movement across the country as far as marriage rights and rights for gay and lesbian couples, but there are still instances where people are together in loving, committed relationships, but because of — in this instance — a family that wasn't supportive, a really tragic event turned more tragic."
And then, of course, there's the parade, which will start at Wragg Mall near the Visitors' Center and end at Colonial Lake. Spectators are encouraged to watch along King Street. The parade moved from North Charleston to downtown Charleston last year, and Glenn says attendance has been increasing as Pride has grown up over the years.
One effect of moving downtown? "It's definitely more visible," Glenn says.