Rainbow flags were waving all aound downtown Burlington this Saturday as members of the LGBTQIA community and allies gathered to celebrate inclusivity in the third annual Alamance Pride event.
It was a day filled with music, food and different events such as face paintingwhile community vendors sold their products.
The event has expanded since it began three years ago in terms of attendance and the amount of financial support.
The previous year, Alamance Pride saw around 2,500 people show up to the event and the hope for this year was around 3,000.
Matthew Antonio Bosch is the director of the Gender and LGBTQIA Center at Elon University and is on the board of directors for Alamance Pride as secretary.
He recalls the previous year when the mayor of Burlington, the police chief, some Alamance Pride board members and a few drag queens all stood under a rainbow arch of balloons to pose for a photo together.
“Everyone being in the same photo together showcased how the county and the city really supports what we do,” Bosch said. “They want to see LGBTQIA inclusion and more visibility and awareness and education around this county.”
Elon students, faculty and staff were among some of the people in attendance at Alamance Pride. Freshman Daniel Castillo has attended pride events before, but it was important to him that there was one he could go to in the Alamance County area.
“We have to show the community that we are here,” Castillo said. “We are going to show our true colors and there are people that identify with different parts of the spectrum. We need to be able to show that and be happy with who we are — be proud of it.”
Junior Amy Belfer has been to several pride events in her life as well. She was a freshman at Elon when Alamance Pride first started. It is now in its third year just as she is in hers at Elon and it has been an experience for her to be able to see the community support.
“I think it was really powerful for me,” Belfer said. “Coming to the South, I was really worried that I would not be accepted for being part of the LGBTQIA community, so to see that this community is accepting and loving and that there are so many people that just wanted to support one another was absolutely transformative in my Elon experience.”
Belfer volunteered with Alamance Pride. This year she greeted people as they walked into the event and gave them a guide, “Alamance Pride: 2017 Pride Guide and Business Directory.”
The guide allowed those in attendance of the event to know who the festival entertainers were, the schedule of events, the vendors and more.
One of the informational pages featured Elon’s accomplishments and its rankings as No. 1 in the South, No. 1 in North Carolina and top 25 in the United States for LGBTQIA Inclusion via Campus Pride’s Index. These rankings have remained the same for three consecutive years.
“We strive really hard to be a beacon of hope for a lot of students,” Bosch said. “This is not just in Alamance County, but in the South in general looking for a more inclusive place, so if we can be that LGBT affirming festival. We want to be as grand and as out and about as we can.”
Another page included information on the history of the rainbow flag. The rainbow flag flew everywhere around the pride event. Among it were other flags that represented specific communities within LGBTQIA.
The event included performances from Triad Men’s Chorus, Triad Women’s Chorus, The Megan Doss Band and a two-act drag show.
The vendors were set up at different booths and there were food trucks present, too.
The future of Alamance Pride is hopeful.
“For the next couple of years, there has been some talk,” Bosch said. “Now that NC Pride, the organization that runs Raleigh-Durham Pride, has cancelled their parade, could there possibly be a hole or an opening for some of the smaller festivals to do a parade? It’s an option. Other than that, it is just trying to grow the space as much as we can and responding to all the needs of the community.”
Belfer also believes that as community members grow more comfortable with coming out to events like these that attendance will increase.
“I hope more people come,” Belfer said. “I hope that people engage with all the different booths and get to know the different community members. I think that will continue to happen as more people feel comfortable coming out here and hear about this.”
The Alamance County community has been able to have more events like these with increased support over the years.
“I think it is so inspiring that though there are so many sad things happening in the world right now, but people are coming together,” Belfer said. “People of all different races, religions, gender identities and ethnicities really show their support, love and light is absolutely beautiful and inspirational.”