Sylva’s first Pride parade inspires inclusivity and diversity

A sea of rainbow-colored flags filled Main Street, Sylva, for the first time ever on Saturday, Sept. 4. 

Sylva held its first Pride parade event to celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of the town’s citizens. The event included live performances from a local band, vendors, and a food truck, as well as the parade through West Main Street.

Dr. Travis Roundtree, a professor in Western Carolina University’s English Department, headed the event along with a variety of community members.

A captive audience enjoyed the post-parade performance in Bridge Park, Sylva. Photo Credit: Chris Hoag

“This is Sylva’s first Pride and I helped to start it along with a great committee of community members, students, and faculty/staff from the University and from Sylva. I’m really excited for this event to happen because it increases diversity and inclusion in our community and makes folks feel at home,” Roundtree said.

According to Roundtree, the goal of the event was to celebrate the inclusivity of the region, as well as to provide a space for networking across the region and to educate others about resources available to them.

Roundtree said that he would like to see the event become bigger with more vendors and performers, as well as expanding Sylva Pride from one day a year to a series of events that happen over the course of a year. 

Roundtree hopes that within the next year, Sylva Pride can become a 501-c3 non-profit. This would allow for more vendors and performers, hopefully with local LGBTQ bands and performers heading the entertainment.

During the event, there was no absence of smiling faces, laughter, and occasional hugs. 

“We’re very grateful to be a part of the first Sylva Pride. It was a great atmosphere, great people, and a great stage, and we hope to be back next year,” Calyn Clark, local performer, said. 

The parade and performances provided an opportunity for many people to feel welcome in a place that was previously seen as unsupportive of the LGBTQIA+ community.

“I really am happy and excited to be playing here at Pride. It’s really beautiful and it makes me really happy and I feel really at home because of it,” Ethan Johnson, local performer, said. 

Many anonymous sentiments were shared by several WCU alum who relayed the message of feeling included in the community for the first time since being a student. 

The first Sylva Pride will leave a lasting impression on the community and it tugged at the heartstrings of many by creating a warm and welcoming environment for people of all ages, sexualities, and gender identities. Many thanks go out from members of the community to those who put the event together and worked tirelessly to create a day of recognition for the LGBTQIA+ community.