LOVE IS LOVE: Port City Pride kicks off a weekend of celebration and inclusion

A masquerade is often a theme adopted to cloak anything from ballrooms to gymnasiums in mysterious elegance, wherein people don masks and fantastic costumes for a night of fancy. It’s an escape for an evening—a perfect theme for the first annual Pride Prom: Mas[queer]ade Ball.


“The idea behind a masquerade theme centers around kids being able to conceal their identity, if that makes them more comfortable,” prom organizer Hattie Haines says. “As far as the look of the dance, the room will be outfitted with black and gold decorations, and Quinten [O’Rourke] is making large photo prop masks.”

Presented by the Frank Harr Foundation and Wilmington Pride Youth, Haines and O’Rourke are organizing the first annual LGBTQIA prom as part of Port City Pride’s weekend-long events. The Mas[queer]ade Ball on August 31 is open to ages 13 to 18, and isn’t a typical school dance or prom. Sure, each teen will get five free raffle tickets at the door to put toward gift certificates for Defy Gravity, Little Dipper, Two Sisters Bookery, and Planet, but the event is specifically organized as a safe space for teenagers to be themselves, without judgement or censorship.

“We have loosened the reins on things like what music is [or] is not appropriate and PDA,” Haines clarifies. “We want the music to be relevant to how the kids feel and if that happens to be something like ‘Fuck the Police’ by N.W.A., then that’s what we are gonna play. We also will be listening to songs by activists like Kendrick Lamar who rap about self acceptance, as well as LGBTQ-centric artists like Troy Sivan, Frank Ocean and Kehlani.”

Fears of social stigma are rampant enough within this oft-marginalized group. Add youth to it, and it becomes even more marginalized. Haines hopes to allow folks a place to interact and feel a sense of unity and community.

“Events like these introduce queer youth to others like themselves, peers, close friends and even love interests they might otherwise be afraid to approach out of fear,” Haines notes.

LOVE IS LOVE: Last year’s inaugural Port City Pride Block Party inspired several additions to turn this celebration into a weekend series of events. Photo courtesy of Port City Pride
LOVE IS LOVE: Last year’s inaugural Port City Pride Block Party inspired several additions to turn this celebration into a weekend series of events. Photo courtesy of Port City Pride

While adults can support the Mas[queer]ade Ball at, anyone looking to celebrate Port City Pride have a full calendar of events coming from August 31 through September 2. It will kick off with The Rainbow Bar Crawl this Friday. Beginning at downtown’s KGB at 6 p.m., folks will make their merry way to Tavern Law, Liquid Room, HUSK, and Tails Piano Bar each hour until they finally end up at Ibiza (with $5 off admission) before midnight.

“The registration gets you some great ‘swag with your $5 dollar registration fee as well,” Port City Pride organizer Joey Hall details.

Ibiza will host a performance by Pearl Liaison of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 7. Known for their summer drag performances, Ibiza welcomes this first-time appearance for Liaison. “We just were lucky enough to have [Ibiza’s] entertainment coordinator on the board for Port City Pride,” Hall notes. “The only time I have seen her perform is on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’ I am excited to know there will be people from all different areas . . . enjoy Pride weekend.”

Weekend festivities will continue Saturday with the second annual Port City Pride Block Party on Castle Street from noon until 10 p.m. Free to the public, there will be various vendors, local artists, nonprofits and four food trucks on site throughout the day. Castle Street’s local shops will be open as well.

The family-friendly event will have a kids corner with face-painting, games and more. Live music will be performed by the “guitar guru of the Lower Cape Fear,” Laura McLean with her Calamity band. Also joining will be singer-songwriter DeAnne Carroll, spoken word by Timothy Joyner, as well as DJ Bobby Zee spinning a dance party in the street until 10 p.m.

This year’s block party features a heftier list of vendors, including Tidal Creek Co-op, Cabin Girl Designs LLC, Tastebuds Popcorn, Studio Nine, Green Coast, Working Narratives, Moms Demand Action – NC, New Hanover County Public Library, The Pepper Mill Shop and more. They’ll all compete in a vendor decoration competition. The vendor who best presents the “Spirit of Pride” wins two official Port City Pride Block Party t-shirts, fees paid for next year, an award and bragging rights.

Pin-Ups for Pride at Second Skin Vintage is another addition to the day’s events. Rockabilly inspired 1940s and ‘50s dress and accessories are encouraged, as well as quirky and unique takes on traditional gendered attire (though dressup isn’t required to enjoy the fun).

Sunday morning risers will meet at Wrightsville Beach at 7 a.m. to play in the sun or start the day with a pick-up kickball game at MLK Park at 2 p.m. Hosted by Stonewall Sports Wilmington, it’s free to play and teams will be determined upon arrival. Each game will last 45 minutes and the team with the most points at the end wins. “Of course bring snacks and drinks to cheer these wonderful athletes on,” Hall encourages.

The weekend will come to a close in style at the USS Battleship North Carolina to cap off 2018 in an unforgettable way: Sunday’s Fantail Funday. Entry into the dance party ($35), with music spinning by DJ Bobby Zee, will include a drink ticket, and Cape Fear Formal Wear will be there with their new fall line of tuxedos for a fashion show.

“Plus, there will be a special performance,” Hall tips off. “Female impersonators [will take the stage and include] The Port City Goddess herself, Tara Nicole Brooks; former Miss Gay NC Lauren Scott; the reigning Miss Ibiza, Sonja Simone; the dancing diva herself, Rashmia Biosh; and the fabulous one from the House of Matthews, Tatianna Matthews. We will have entertainers from Florida and Greensboro, NC.”

As Port City Pride continues to grow, they’re looking for more ways to provide education and community outreach. Since the first block party last year, Hall and company learned to think bigger and plan in advance. They were able to brainstorm ideas far longer than 2017’s finite timeline.

“Last year, we had some highly motivated folks that wanted to make this happen for our community within a six-week period,” Hall explains. “It was fun and exciting, and we asked the community what they wanted. What were their ideas? And we heard a lot of great things and built from there.”

They saw first-hand how a younger generation of the LGBTQIA community yearned inclusion; hence 2018’s prom. They’re looking toward further inclusion as well in coming years as the event grows.
“We need to break the tradition of essentially segregated Pride festivals—and that’s not just a problem in New Hanover County or North Carolina, it’s an issue everywhere of white queer people not reaching out to communities of color when orchestrating events like these,” Haines states.

Proceeds from the weekend’s events will benefit Port City Pride and their mission to host events for the LGBTQIA community. They can be followed and tagged with #portcitypride2018. For more information, follow the group at

Pride Prom: Mas[queer]ade Ball
Ages 13-18 only
Friday, Aug. 31, 6 p.m.
Hannah Block Community Center
120 S. 2nd St.
Donations at

Rainbow Bar Crawl
Friday, Aug. 31, 6:30 p.m.
Meet at KGB ILM
16 Princess St.
Registration: $5

Friday, Aug. 31, midnight
Ibiza Nightclub Wilmington
118 Market St.
Cover: $15-$30
($5 off for bar crawl attendees)

Pride Block Party 2
Saturday, Sept. 1, 12 p.m.- 10 p.m.
Castle Street

Pride Beach Blast
Sunday, Sept. 2, 7 a.m.
Wrightsville Beach Access 29

Pride Kickball Game
Sunday, Sept. 2, 2 p.m.
MLK Center Park
401 S. 8th St.

Fantail Funday Dance Party
Sunday, Sept. 2, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
USS Battleship North Carolina
1 Battleship Rd NE
Tickets: $35 (includes 1 drink ticket)

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