RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — You might have noticed the bright colors in downtown Raleigh that lend a warm welcome to visitors for the Out! Raleigh Pride festival.

Kori Hennessey, the LGBT Center of Raleigh’s director of education and programs, said it means a lot to bring the event back after it was canceled the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A small celebration on Zoom in 2020 and a car show last year just wasn’t the same.

He expects thousands to show up Saturday and says the excitement has been building.

Hennessey also noted the support leading up to the celebration from several downtown businesses. 

Many restaurants, bars and shops put out welcome signs, flags and decorated for it. Some even raised donations for organizations like the LGBT Center. 

He said these organizations support the LGBTQ community and offer several services, programs and resources. Hennessey said Out! Raleigh Pride will also raise funds for the center and promote diversity, awareness and inclusiveness. 

“North Carolina is a very challenging state for the community, and us being the capital … I just think it’s really important for us to show that there is support here,” he said.

Businesses like The Green Monkey near Hillsborough Street and Ashe Avenue have demonstrated their support for the pride celebration.

Jennifer Vickers, who works at the gift shop and bottle bar, said the businesses has been doing events all month but work to be inclusive all year round. 

“We are a gay-owned company and we want to make sure this is a comfortable place for anyone to walk into any time of the year,” Vickers said. 

“Everyone needs a place to call home, or a safe place they can go where they don’t feel like they need to be watching their back,” she added.

Out! Raleigh Pride runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Most of the action will take place near Fayettevillle and West Hargett streets.

Organizers expect other events and parties will continue into the evening.