Salisbury Pride back in downtown

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 23, 2013

SALISBURY — Walking beneath a hovering archway of red and yellow balloons, Cora Branham found herself at her first Pride festival Saturday.
“It’s something I wanted to do last year but I didn’t get out to it,” the Rockwell native said. “It’s just great to get out to something like this and support the cause.”
Authorities estimated nearly 2,000 attended Salisbury’s third-annual Pride festival Saturday — which is on par for attendance in the festival’s short history.
Tamara Sheffield, co-chairwoman of Salisbury Pride, said the event did see a significant boost in vendors and sponsors with a growth of about 40 percent.
“It’s definitely grown,” Sheffield said. “The word’s gotten out.”
For Branham, it had.

The 23-year-old said this summer’s event was a priority because she wanted to support equality and diversity — two things she felt the event promoted.
“It’s just so great to see this in a town like Salisbury,” Branham said. “People need events like this.”
But the event wasn’t without its opponents.
Salisbury Police Capt. Melonie Thompson tallied the event’s protestors at about 10 to 12.
The number protesting was a slight uptick from about eight last year, but significantly less than the 200 who turned out for the event’s inaugural festival.
Thompson said none of the protestors had permits. They were relagated to the sidewalks and were not allowed to use large signs or voice amplifiers.
Protestors were also not allowed onto the 110 S. Lee Street parking lot where organizers hosted live music and vendors.
No one was arrested, but there were a handful of — sometimes heated — exchanges between street preachers and supporters.
About midway through the event, Thompson said the exchanges had been civil thus far.
“I think it’s probably a bit better than last year,” Thompson said.
The event featured Salisbury’s gay and straight business community, non-profit organizations, civic groups and churches, as well as service agencies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Many people were clad in bright colors with love or peace slogans. They listened to live music, danced on the bricks of East Fisher Street and enjoyed food and drinks in the 110 S. Lee Street parking lot.
One of them, Bethany Rogers, of Lexington, said it was also her first Pride event.
Rogers was among those that signed a Pride wall Saturday, which bordered the festivities.
“I think it’s a really good turnout,” Rogers said. “It’s exciting.”

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.