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The Out! Festival celebrates more than the LGBT community. It's about accepting everyone.

Thousands crowd Fayetteville Street in Raleigh in 2015 for the annual Out! Raleigh, a free street festival with music, food vendors, and a Kid Zone. The pride celebration for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is a fundraiser for the LGBT Center of Raleigh.
Thousands crowd Fayetteville Street in Raleigh in 2015 for the annual Out! Raleigh, a free street festival with music, food vendors, and a Kid Zone. The pride celebration for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is a fundraiser for the LGBT Center of Raleigh. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Common Woman Chorus typically plays to seated audiences. This weekend will be different, though, when the longstanding Durham chorus plays Out! Raleigh, the annual event that draws thousands to downtown to celebrate the LGBTQ community.

It's their second time at the event, says artistic director Kristen Stinnett, and this kind of performance is particularly fun because of the energetic festival audience — and because of the view of the sea of people at this celebration of inclusivity.

"This is the stuff that we sing about," Stinnett said. "We sing for social justice."

On Saturday, May 5, Out! Raleigh fills Fayetteville Street with vendors, performers and — if previous years' numbers are any indication — somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 attendees. Aside from being a highly visible pride celebration for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Out! Raleigh is also a fundraiser for the LGBT Center of Raleigh, which organizes the event.

This street festival raises about 60 percent of the center's funding for the year, says LGBT Center Assistant Director Kelly Taylor. This is critical, she said, because the center offers 29 different programs for the LGBT community and allies.

Yet this street festival is for more than just the LGBT community, says Taylor. This year in particular, Out! Raleigh has a theme of "Love Without Borders" to show support for immigrants and refugees as well.

"We are doing that theme this year because very specifically we want to show our commitment to intersectionality," says Taylor. "We exist among other communities that have also been discriminated against, particularly our immigrant communities, our refugee communities. We want to stand with them and lift them up and celebrate everyone's existence."

Out! Raleigh will start this year with a few speeches about the Love Without Borders theme. Advocacy groups El Pueblo, Inc. and El Centro Hispano will be present, as will Community United Church of Christ, which is a sanctuary church.

"It doesn't even feel like just an LGBT event," says Stinnett. "It's bringing all the communities together that need to support each other."

Common Woman Chorus will perform songs about travel, exploration and about coming home, which resonate with the Love Without Borders theme. They also serve as prep for Wanderlust, the group's May 19 concert at the Eno River UU Fellowship in Durham.

"Common Woman Chorus is back because they are our most popular request," Taylor said.

In terms of entertainment, there's a variety of acts, from comedians (Sampson) to DJs (DJ Pancakes) to R&B vocalists (Alise King) to bands (High Bushy Tails; She Returns From War). Because high winds forced Out! Raleigh to end early last year, Taylor adds, some artists who didn't get to perform in 2017 were invited back.

"We are doing something a little bit different this year," says Taylor. "We're setting up a second stage near the courthouse. Triangle Gay Men's Chorus will be performing and we have a few other acts up there, with the intent of drowning out protestors, should we have them."

Protestors aren't necessarily a problem, she says, but they attend. Another initiative at Out! Raleigh is Pledge-a-Protestor. People can agree to pledge a certain amount of money per protestor, meaning the LGBT Center raises more money as more protestors show up.

"I feel like we're in a time where people are like, 'Oh, all the gays can get married, so we're good now. We've done it,'" Stinnett says. "The thing is that it's still not enough. Having the (LGBT) center there is still really, really important. I'm glad that it's been established for some time now. I know that it's not a baby anymore. There are still people who are marginalized and there are still people who need support and that's the place that offers those resources."

And Out! Raleigh is part of that mechanism. Families are encouraged to attend. There's a Kids Zone with inflatables. Durham's popular Museum of Life and Science will be there, and there will also be a dog rescue.

"So there are going to be puppies in the Kids Zone," Taylor says.

"It's very festive, it's very open," Stinnett said. "I'm a gay person myself, so I love being there, part of the community, and I love that it's a family friendly event and that there's kid stuff going on. It just feels like a big party and it's a good way to kind of just be with your people."

Details

What: Out! Raleigh

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, May 5

Where: Fayetteville Street, Raleigh

Cost: Free

Info: 919-832-4484 or outraleigh.org

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