Drag Shows, Family Picnics, and Parades: This Is How You Celebrate Pride Month in North Carolina

The Charlotte Pride celebrations in 2019. It's Pride Month in NC, and we've curated the best events to check out this month. (Shutterstock)

By Emily Jaeger

June 3, 2022

Pride Month is, alas, only 30 days. From Wilmington to Asheville, we’ve curated the best ways to fill it with fun, frivolity, and community.

It’s June in North Carolina which means that from your local hand-poured candle shop to Walmart, rainbows abound. Welcome to Pride Month. 

Despite still landing on the magenta side of purple politically, North Carolina has a rich heritage of LGBTQ life, from radical lesbian separatist colonies to the recent repeal of HB2 and Asheville (‘nuff said). 

Historically, LGBTQ North Carolinians all celebrated Pride in one place. Beginning in the late 1980s, NC Pride organized a statewide march that was held in a different city each year. However, with growing LGBTQ communities spread out across the state, Pride evolved into a plethora of festivals and marches all across North Carolina. And not all of them are even in June!

But with Pride celebrations from Asheville to Wimington, where can you find the best Pride in North Carolina? 

Whether you are hoping to be bedazzled by the Pride Pageant in Winston-Salem, or looking to meet other LGBTQ families at a Pride Picnic, North Carolina has got you covered. Which means, that in the spirit of vogueing, we’ve got categories.

The fun at Charlotte Pride 2019. (Shutterstock)

Best Drag show: Winston-Salem 

The Mr. and Miss Pride Winston-Salem is an annual pageant welcoming local queens, kings, and everything in between to strut their stuff and show what makes them proud. Contestants must win over the audience with their talents–whether modeling, singing, or any other creative form of pride–while adhering to the strict 3-minute time limit.

Mr. and Miss Pride are not only awarded a cash prize but a year-long reign representing the LGBTQ community at Winston-Salem Pride events. Mr. and Miss Pride are also required to keep it clean, as their crown can be revoked for disparaging comments on social media or any other tea spilling. 

Runner up: Wilmington. If three days have gone by and you haven’t seen a drag show, you aren’t doing Wilmington Pride Month right. With a variety of drag performances from brunches to bars, Wilmington makes sure that everyone has a chance to pay homage to the queens

Best Family Pride: Wilmington

While many North Carolina Pride festivals these days include kid-zones, Wilmington takes family-friendly Pride to the next level with a wide variety of creative events. 

Back by popular demand from last year is “Chalk Full of Pride” from June 24-26. Artists of all ages and abilities are invited to draw their Pride stories on walls and sidewalks of businesses across town. Children 7 and under will enjoy Pride Storytime at the Pine Valley Library and your child may just meet their new bestie at the Family Pride Picnic.

Parents can also enjoy a fun night out at the Adult Pride Prom. Make sure to rope the whole family into an epic prom-posal and snap some prom pics to show off or to embarrass your teens. 

Best Small Town Pride: Carrboro & Chapel Hill 

Bringing together local businesses, artists, volunteers and community partners, the Triangle’s Small Town Pride includes such diverse events as a poetry open-mic, drag queen storytime, and Orgullo Latinex Pride. 

For a one-of-a-kind Pride march, join Carrboro’s Pride Piper Walk on June 24, serenaded by the Bulltown Strutters, a New Orleans-Style parade and stage band. Marchers (or, rather, strutters) will help roll city mascot “The Rainbow Ram” across town. The final destination: the Pride Food Truck Rodeo & Dance Party. 

Runner up: Wilson. Closer to the definition of a small town, Wilson is known for its Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. If you want to find out what a whirligig is and also enjoy a day of drag queens in bakeries, live music, lip sync battles, and a street fair, head over to Wilson on June 4th

Most Artsy Pride: Raleigh

For the sensitive souls amongst us, head to Raleigh for North Carolina’s artsiest pride. Along with a host of dances and a “Mama Mia” sing-along, Raleigh boasts a Pride film festival, virtual lectures (I’m looking at you, you soulful introvert), improv and comedy shows, and poetry open mic with events throughout the month of June. There’s even a youth coffeehouse for local teens. 

The Pride Film Festival at the Green Monkey, a locally-owned Raleigh gift shop and community gathering space, includes LGBTQ cult classics like But I’m a Cheerleader” and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” Attendees should anticipate sing-alongs and lots of yelling back at the screen. 

Best Off-the-Beaten-Trail Pride: Jacksonville / Asheville

That’s right, it’s a tie. For those of us looking for something a little different this year, don’t worry. North Carolina’s got your back.

Head over to Roller City in Jacksonville, North Carolina for Pride Skate on June 24th to show off those moves you’ve been saving since the 1970’s / 90’s. We can only assume that rainbow bell bottoms are encouraged. 

Or, smash the heteropatriarchy (actually, a car representing the “cistem”) on June 25th in Asheville at this cathartic fundraiser for Tranzmission, ​​dedicated to improving the lives of transgender and nonbinary people in western North Carolina. While Asheville’s full Blue Ridge Pride festival takes place in September, you can still join in on the celebrations in June with music, refreshments, and, of course, smashing things. 

Best Pride March: You’ll have to wait for cooler weather.

Unfortunately, for a good ol’ classic Pride March in North Carolina, you Pride-sters will have to wait until the end of September. Why do Durham and Asheville host some of the largest Pride marches in the state during the last week of September? Someone figured out that a Pride March in Southern June was the wrong kind of hot. 

The good news is this gives you a couple months to recover from the awesomeness that is Pride Month in North Carolina in time to get your march on. 


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