US: 'I Didn't Think It Was Possible': North Carolina City Rings In Its First LGBTQ Pride

On a beautiful June afternoon in the Blue Ridge Mountains, dozens of tiny rainbow flags lead the way toward a park pavilion. A couple walks up to the pavilion, each holding a gallon of iced tea. In the parking lot, people are unloading their lawn chairs. The small city of Hendersonville, N.C., celebrated Pride for the first time. Unlike many Pride celebrations in bigger cities, there was no parade or festival. It was a potluck picnic.

Hendersonville is about 30 miles from the scenic, eclectic city of Asheville. Downtown Asheville is speckled with rainbow flags. It's common to see same-sex couples and gender diversity. Asheville hosts Blue Ridge Pride every September. But drive just a few miles in any direction outside Asheville's bustling downtown, and the climate of LGBTQ acceptance seems to change.

For some in Hendersonville, Asheville can feel out of reach. Laura Bannister, organizer of Hendersonville's Pride picnic, says no one should have to leave their community to celebrate Pride. Many participants came bearing casserole dishes of homemade food. Under the park shelter, picnic tables overflow with "salads" — and not the leafy green kind. Don Streb, one of the volunteers at the event, showed off the spread.

No one knew how many people to expect at Hendersonville's first Pride event. Streb was overwhelmed by the turnout. Approximately 500 people attended, in a town of only 14,000. "People keep coming and food keeps coming," Streb says. "It's just a day of pride that's making me choke up." Read more via NPR