RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The LGBTQ Center of Raleigh estimates about 75,000 people attended the first full Pride Festival since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Saturday, crowds descended on Fayetteville Street in Raleigh for the Out! Raleigh Pride Festival.
It’s a sight that has not been seen since the pandemic began. COVID-19 led to a virtual celebration in 2020 and a car show last year.
For Alex Alberti, with the Triangle Pride Band, the return of the event meant the first LGBTQ+ festival performance in years.
“This is the first time we’ve got to be out playing again, getting people excited about music and Pride as a season,” Alberti said. “During COVID, we were making videos, multi-track video performances but it’s actually play again and have people get excited.”
Kade Kimber, with the Harmony LGBT+ Allied Chamber of Commerce, said the in-person celebration also brought big business for LBGTQ+ creators and vendors.
“First of all, it’s huge because of the connectivity and there’s only so much virtually that you’re going to be able to do,” Kimber said. “There is something to be said about in-person relationships.”
One vendor, Orlando Evans, said he sold around 2,000 fans through the company he works for — God Glam It.
“It was amazing, it was a great turnout,” Evans said. “I was very shocked to see how many people were here in Raleigh.”
But beyond the bands and shopping, the event comes just a day after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, striking down federal abortion protections.
Some festivalgoers brought signs and expressed their opposition to the decision.
Lux Walker said she protested the decision in downtown Raleigh Friday, then attended the Pride Festival Saturday.
“Today was really important coming into Pride and being able to feel community and that we’re not alone and that there are people that care and want to fight for us and everything that is happening right now,” Walker said. “So today was especially important, I think, for all of us that are reeling from the news yesterday.”