Charleston Pride Festival events

For more information on the festival and events, go to charlestonpridefestival.org.Today‘Art For Pride’ Art WalkWhat: The walk celebrates local LGBT artists and provides a medium for established and new artists alike to connect with the community.When: 5-8 p.m.Where: Various businesses along East Montague Avenue in Park Circle, but the North Charleston Meeting Place, 1077 E. Montague Ave., will serve as the central hub.LGBT Film FestivalWhat: This second annual film festival will feature the films “Breakfast with Scot” at 7 p.m. and “Pariah” at 9 p.m. “Pariah” was featured at the Sundance Film Festival last year. When: 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.Where: Old North Charleston Picture House in Park Circle, 4820 Jenkins Ave., North CharlestonPrice: $5, $2 for members of the Old North Charleston Picture House‘Gay in America’ meet and greet What: Sponsored by the local LGBT community group enlightenMen, this meet and greet features “Gay in America” author Scott Pasfield. The book highlights various LGBT individuals and their lives throughout the United States through photo documentation. The event will be highlighted by a presentation by Pasfield at 7:30 p.m., a panel discussion from various men Pasfield featured in the book and a book signing at 9 p.m.When: 7-10 p.m.Where: South of Broadway Theatre Company, 1080 E. Montague Ave., North CharlestonTakeover CharlestonWhat: The group Takeover Charleston is taking over the various events taking place in Park Circle. This event is all about kicking off the Charleston Pride Festival. There will be food and drink specials, DJ Beck Danger, corn-hole tournaments and more.When: 6-10 p.m.Where: Dig in the Park, 1049 E. Montague Ave., North CharlestonFridayCharleston Pride PageantWhat: This third annual Empress and Emperor Pageant will feature the following categories: evening gown, creative pride wear and the talent portion. Festivities will be hosted by Brook Collins and Ava Clear with special performances by Coti Collins and Justin Atlanta.When: 6-9 p.m.Where: Music Farm, 32 Ann St.Price: $10, $15 for those under 21Charleston Pride Sin PartyWhat: Immediately following the Empress and Emperor Pageant, Absolut Vodka, in coordination with Chris Coleman Enterprises and Revolve Paper, presents a night of sin. Dance music will be provided by DJ and producer Oren Nizri, and a fashion show and giveaways are part of the fun.When: 9 p.m.-2 a.m.Where: Music Farm, 32 Ann St.Price: $15-$25For more info: www.chriscolemanenterprises.comSaturdayCharleston Pride ParadeWhat: The signature event of every festival, this third annual event promises to be bigger and feature more parades and floats from local individuals and businesses.When: 11 a.m.-noonWhere: East Montague Avenue in Park CircleCharleston Pride RallyWhat: Immediately following the parade will be the rally, which will offer an array of entertainment and activities for kids and adults. The event will feature numerous drag performances, musical entertainment and more than 50 merchant, food and beverage, and information vendors. When: Noon-5 p.m.Where: Riverfront Park, 1001 Everglades Drive, North CharlestonCharleston Pride Neptune PartyWhat: This official Charleston Pride party will be put on by Bud Light, in coordination with Chris Coleman Enterprises and Revolve Paper. DJ Manny Lehman will provide the music. The party will feature a fashion show and crowd giveaways, compliments of Timoteo Swimwear. And $500 in door prizes will be given away. Chad Michaels from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” will be headlining.When: 9 p.m.-2 a.m.Where: South Carolina Aquarium, 100 Aquarium Wharf Price: $25, $35 for VIPFor more info:www.chriscolemanenterprises.comSundayCharleston Pride Worship PartyWhat: The first official after-hours party will take place following the Neptune Party and is put on by Bud Light in coordination with Chris Coleman Enterprises and Revolve Paper. DJ Lydia Prim will be providing the music, and there will be a cash bar available until the end of the party. Chad Michaels from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” will be headlining.When: 2-5 a.m.Where: South Carolina Aquarium, 100 Aquarium Wharf Price: $25, $35 for VIPFor more info: www.chriscolemanenterprises.comCharleston Pride Folly Beach PartyWhat: Local LGBT activist DJ Trevor will be kicking off the party; DJ Scorpio will close out the festivities, which include a swimsuit fashion show courtesy of Timoteo Swimwear, $1,000 in raffles and $500 in door prizes. Bud Light and Absolut Vodka will be providing shuttle transportation to Folly from Charleston Pride’s host hotel, the historic Mills House, 115 Meeting St.When: Noon-7 p.m.Where: Folly Beach

The Charleston Pride Festival is a little of what you might expect and a lot of what you might not.

There will be rainbows and drag queens, parties and DJs, but there also will be members of the local community coming together to celebrate unity and acceptance in the face of adversity and remembering the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women who came before them and sparked the social change that continues today.

The festival begins today with “Art for Pride,” an art walk in Park Circle celebrating local LGBT artists, and culminates in a parade on Saturday and a beach bash Sunday at Folly Beach. Along the way there are other activities such as the LGBT Film Festival and a meet and greet for “Gay in America” author Scott Pasfield.

Although there will be many highlights along the way, the parade is the core of the festival and the most public demonstration of the community’s confidence.

Pride

This year’s parade begins at 11 a.m. at Riverfront Park, and the organizers are promising a bigger parade with more floats than ever before.

Serving as grand marshal of this year’s parade is Rita Elaine Taylor.

Taylor and her partner of 14 years, Sherry Clark, are prominent figures in the local LGBT community, and have worked diligently with organizations including Hospice of Charleston, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Lowcountry AIDS Services. A Charleston resident for many years, Taylor is considered instrumental in laying the foundation for the Charleston LGBT community.

In recent years there has been a call by some members of the LGBT community for an end to pride festivals and a call to be more proud the whole year through. Many in the local community, however, are adamant that pride celebrations are more than just flagrant parties.

“Pride celebrations are not a celebration of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Most importantly, we celebrate pride events to commemorate what is viewed as the launch of the modern-day LGBT civil rights movement, spawned by the Stonewall Riots of 1969,” said Rob Lewis, chairman of the board of Charleston Pride Inc., the group producing the festival. He continues, saying that the term “pride” was used to denote pride in the community’s accomplishments and not just a flippant choice of words to describe a celebration.

Trevor Donovan, founder of Takeover Charleston along with his partner Marshall Morris, adds, “Pride is year-round, but a week-long festival such as the Charleston Pride Festival is necessary. It brings more of our community together than any other event during the year.

“I think it takes both festivals and year-round events to keep our community educated, informed and united,” Donovan said.

Takeover Charleston is the group responsible for organizing events for the LGBT community where they “takeover” a local hotspot that might not usually be associated with the gay community. Takeover Charleston will be hosting the official kick-off party for the Pride Festival today at DIG in the Park in Park Circle.

More than fun

As the term festival suggests, the annual extravaganza is meant to be fun for all involved and is certainly open to anyone who wishes to participate, but it serves a higher purpose, too.

The work that Charleston Pride Festival Inc. does the rest of the year culminates during this time.

Lewis said the “primary purpose is to educate our community about the obstacles encountered within the LGBT community, and specifically provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention among our youth who are LGBT or questioning their sexual orientation.”

So while the event is certainly about celebrations, it is also about facing the real-life challenges to being a minority group fighting for equal rights.

When asked about change in the Charleston community, Lewis and Donovan were hopeful.

“I think change has already started with help from groups such as Charleston Pride, Takeover Charleston, SC Equality, AFFA (Alliance for Full Acceptance) and We Are Family” Donovan said. “That in itself is one of the main reasons we do Takeover. Yes, it brings everyone together, but it also shows everyone that we are … a big part of the Charleston community.”

Lewis postulates that the events during the festival are “a means to demonstrate that sexual orientation does not change the fact we are still contributing members of society, paying taxes, consuming products, raising families and even attending church.”

He and Donovan both point out that members of the LGBT community are neighbors, and friends. They are your soldiers, police and firefighters, and they are brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers.

‘Young and growing’

This is the third year for the Charleston Pride Festival. Lewis said “(it) is a young and growing organization. As with any such endeavor, growth is determined by the support of the community, the effectiveness in fulfilling its mission and the dedication of its volunteers.”

He admits that Charleston Pride does not draw the same high-profile figures as similar events in big cities like Atlanta or New York, but points out that the local organization is growing at an unprecedented rate and that is another thing of which to be proud.