CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Charlotte Pride hosted its annual lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer festival and parade Saturday and Sunday in uptown.
Over 200,000 people attended the free, two-day cultural festival, which features diverse national, regional and local entertainers, musicians and bands, plus vendors, art exhibitors, area nonprofits and political candidates.
Last year's festival drew more than 165,000 people to uptown, making it one of Charlotte's largest annual events.
The festival was held on South Tryon Street between Stonewall Street and Trade Street.
Sunday's parade was one of the biggest highlights.
"It's been awesome to see this much love and support and happiness just everywhere," attendee Ryan German said.
Channel 9 talked to a same-sex couple who said they thought it was important to bring their son to his very first Pride parade.
"We wanted to make sure that we make this a priority as parents for him to see this is something that should be celebrated," parent Laura Rice said.
Organizers told Channel 9's Briana Harper there were over 40 floats and hundreds of marchers filling North Tryon Street.
According to the CRVA, 18,000 out-of-town visitors were expected, resulting in the booking of about 12,000 hotel rooms.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said the event was staffed with both uniformed and plain-clothed officers. This was also the first year that first responders marched in the parade.
"Our goal also is to make sure that we are inclusive internally and externally, and this is a proud opportunity for us to make sure we do just that," said CMPD Maj. Sherie Pearsall.
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This year's Charlotte Pride Festival was particularly special because it is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that helped spark the rights movement.
"It's so wonderful to see such a strong presence of support from our community," Rice said.
Organizers said this Pride weekend was more than just a good time, but a chance to highlight love and acceptance.
"So this is not just a celebration for Charlotte," organizer Matt Corner said. "It's a celebration for the entire Carolinas. We want Charlotte to be known as a place that's inclusive and welcoming for all people."
The festival and parade are the culmination of a weeklong slate of Charlotte Pride Week events highlighting the social, cultural, ethnic, artistic and political diversity of the metro Charlotte area's LGBTQ community.
For more details and a schedule of events, go to charlottepride.org.
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