Increased security, continuous community support and a depth of headline entertainment will make this year’s S.C. Pride festival “the biggest one we’ve had yet in 27 years,” president Jeff March said.
S.C. Pride supports lesbian, gay and transgender people and advocates for equality and inclusion for all.
Pride Week 2016 began with events starting Thursday, Aug. 25. The week includes kickball games, benefit nights at local bars and restaurants, a picnic and an after-party at Music Farm.
The marquee event is the Pride parade and festival on Saturday, Sept. 3. Featured entertainers are singer and “American Idol” season six winner Jordin Sparks, Pussycat Doll Jessica Sutta, singer and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Jayne, ’80s pop diva Stacey Q and former contestants from the drag competition show “Ru-Paul’s Drag Race.”
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Last year was the first festival since marriage became a right for all, and a Republican legislator (Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Dorchester) spoke at the festival. This year’s festival takes place after the passage of HB2, the North Carolina bill requiring transgender people to use the public restrooms that align with the gender on their birth certificates and nullifying expanded protections for the LGBT community.
This year’s S.C. Pride also follows the June 12 mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
In August, the Columbia City Council allocated an additional $312,000 for more police protection at this year’s parade.
Generally, city officers provide security for the parade that last year drew more than 35,000 people, and now, deputies will add to the security contingent.
March said he does not know how many more officers will work the event.
“We are being cautious. I’ve been to many Prides since June 12. Hundreds have gone on without a hitch. I’m confident ours will be another one of those,” he said.
North Carolina certainly is still struggling with the bathroom issue, but here (a similar bill) was struck down – there are people in the state, even the governor, that say, ‘you are part of the community and we are not going to exclude you.’
Reformation Lutheran Church Pastor Tim Bupp
Although HB2 and the Pulse shooting were devastating to the LGBT community, there were some positive outcomes, said Tim Bupp, a pastor at Reformation Lutheran Church in Eastover, which hosts a free picnic for S.C. Pride revelers on Sunday, Sept. 4. That includes an effort to pass a similar bill to HB2 here in South Carolina, which failed.
“North Carolina certainly is still struggling with the bathroom issue, but here, (a similar bill) was struck down – there are people in the state, even the governor, that say, ‘You are part of the community and we are not going to exclude you,’ ” he said.
About 60 percent of the Reformation congregation identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The church has hosted the picnic since 2009 and has a booth at the festival.
“The church is honored to be a part of it,” Bupp said.
The defeat of the bill shows that opinions are slowly changing in South Carolina, S.C. Equality executive director Jeff Ayers said. The S.C. Equality Coalition, a political arm of S.C. Equality, focuses on LGBT advocacy and legislation and worked to defeat the bill at the S.C. State House. Ayers is one of the grand marshals for this year’s parade.
Ayers also cited an August poll from Public Policy Polling as evidence of changing opinions. The poll, which was sponsored by the S.C. Democratic Party, found that 53 percent of the registered voters surveyed supported legislation protecting LGBT South Carolinians from discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations.
“We are in no way saying South Carolina has become a progressive state, but we feel it’s changing,” Ayers said.
“We’re going into this Pride celebrating our victories, but we also know there is a lot of work yet still to be done.”
S.C. Pride Week
S.C. Pride Edition of the famous Thirsty Thursday, hosted by former Miss S.C. Pride Veronica La Blank and Mr. and Miss S.C. Pride 2016-17.
10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1 at PT’s, 1109 Assembly St. $10
S.C. Pride official pre-party
Official Pre-Party featuring DJ Trevor, aka Trevor Donovan, who has has been the official S.C. Pride DJ for four years.
5–11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2 at First Citizens Cafe, 1210 Main St. Ages 18 and older. Free.
S.C. Pride official pre-party after-party
Featuring DJ Trevor.
11 p.m.–2 a.m. Friday, Sept. 2 at Capital Club, 1002 Gervais St.
S.C. Pride parade and festival
The parade kicks of Saturday festivities.
Afterward, the main stage is at Main and Lady streets. Stacey Q will perform at 1 p.m., Jessica Sutta at 2 p.m., Erika Jayne at 4 p.m. and Jordin Sparks at 6 p.m. Ru-Paul’s Drag Race Hour closes the night at 7 p.m. Speakers will be on stage throughout the day as well.
The local stage, at Main and Hampton streets, features South Carolina entertainers at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. DJ Prince Charming and Paris Lefaris will headline.
Parade, noon Saturday, Sept. 3 from Laurel and Main streets to the State House; festival, 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 along Main Street from Lady to Hampton
Aftermath: The official S.C. Pride after-party
Just because the festival is over doesn’t mean the celebration ends. Head to Aftermath post-Pride to celebrate the successes of the week. Performers of the RuPaul’s Drag Race Hour – Phoenix, Raven, Yara Sofia, Ivy Winters and Naysha Sparks – will give an encore performance, and DJ Prince Charming will be on the turntables keeping everyone on their feet.
10 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 at Music Farm, 1022 Senate St. Ages 21 and older. $15.
S.C. Pride picnic
Enjoy a free picnic following the 10 a.m. church service at Reformation Lutheran Church to close out Pride Week.
11:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 4 at 1118 Union St., Eastover. Free.
For more information, visit www.scpride.org