Take 5 with Ghent Pride Co-Chair Chris Reybrouck

By Jeff Maisey

Tell us about your new role this year as Co-Chair of Ghent Pride. What goes into planning the event on Monday, June 17 at the Palace Shops in Ghent?

I am honored to have been part of the founding committee before the pandemic that helped with the creation of Ghent Pride and honored to have been asked to co-chair this year.  One of my goals since moving to Norfolk in 2016 has been to be a change-maker in connecting our community LGBTQ+ organizations by work together in collaboration and partnership as well as lifting each other up.  As a community, we should be proud of the wonderful work ALL the non-profits in Hampton Roads do to have LGBTQ+ services and programs, social or supportive, including this year’s non-profits who are beneficiaries of funds raised by Ghent Pride. 

At the center of Ghent Pride is the community spirit of giving back. You’ve selected 10 beneficiaries to receive funds. Why is the fundraising aspect at the core of Ghent Pride?

Ghent Pride stands out with a mission unlike any other to lift up non-profit organizations selected each year through an application and review committee that help strengthen our collective LGBTQ+ community and give back to these organizations.  Our goal is to award each non-profit as many funds collected by our wonderful sponsors and Ghent Businesses to help strengthen these organizations programming for the year ahead for LGBTQ+ people in Hampton Roads.  All the money raised at Ghent Pride will help and create or grow LGBTQ+ programming that is already happening at these non-profit organizations that are the rock of Ghent Pride 2024. For some organizations, it was an incentive to create more extensive programming for the LGBTQ+ community with the funds raised by Ghent Pride, which is also wonderful to see our community growing together.  

Because this event is a fundraiser, what are your goals when it comes to managing expenses, garnering sponsorships, selling food and beverages, and tickets for entry?

Our committee works hard to secure sponsorships from businesses all over the Ghent community and in Norfolk to help cover all the expenses for Ghent Pride as well as to give back to our non-profit beneficiaries.  This year our sponsorship support has been amazing which will allow for Ghent Pride to make sure that 100% of all funds received at the event go DIRECTLY back to 10 non-profit organizations including entry donations, drinks sales, and other activities at the event!  Each year, we work hard to secure seed money for next year’s event, support the GBA and Ghent District Foundation and neighborhood, and then lift-up non-profits who are really making a difference for LGBTQ+ folx and their families in Hampton Roads.  Our goal is always to minimize expenses to maximize what we can give back as well as making sure that this event has seed money for the year ahead to continue and grow each year!

What’s new at this year’s Ghent Pride in terms of entertainment and vendors?

We are so excited to have moved the party from 5:30-9:30pm so that folx can join us right from work to kick-off the official Hampton Roads Pride week activities.  We have a diverse line-up of entertainment including dancers, drag legends of the 757, and some more surprises up our sleeves.  We are excited to present the Key to Gay Ghent once again this year to a community member who has made a big impact in the daily lives and support of our LGBTQ+ friends, neighbors, and non-profit organizations.  We will have food provided by Baker’s Crust, Jessy’s Taco Bistro, and The Ghent Rooftop & Bar.  We will have wonderful wine selections from the amazing team at Water’s Edge Winery as well as our special Ghent Pride Cocktails.  Ghent Pride will continue to build on our public-art installation “Locks of Love”, where anyone can buy a lock to support Ghent Pride beneficiaries and join our fence-of-love designed exclusively by Robyn Thomas.  This year we are SPILLING THE TEA with over 25 members of the community bedazzling teapots this year for attendees to vote and bid to take home.  Ghent Pride is about community so we will have give-a-ways, dancing, music, and more surprises to celebrate our LGBTQ+ Ghent Community!

Pride Month events are wide ranging — everyone from breweries, restaurants, arts groups, city event organizers, and attractions such as Virginia Zoo are supportive and in the spirit. The highlight remains Hampton Roads Pride Festival/Boat Parade/Party at The NorVa/Ghent Pride. What makes that one week so special?

Since arriving in Hampton Roads in 2016, it has been wonderful to see so many more Pride events in all seven cities of Hampton Roads as well as special venues that we cherish in our neighborhoods.  Working at LGBT Life Center, our staff will be present at over 25 official pride celebrations in June alone all over Hampton Roads.  The strength is the culmination of everyone coming together in solidarity to send a message that we are here, queer, and proud to live in a city that supports us as LGBTQ+ citizens.  The event sends a message to us that we are a inclusive community as well as signals to our businesses that the LGBTQ+ community add a major economic element to our local economy.  Finally, it is a honor to live in a city where such a visible Pride Fest happens where we feel safe, included, and allowed to express who we love and who we are together, in community.

PS. If I may, a big thank you to VEER Magazine for always being so supportive of the LGBTQ+ community in Hampton Roads.  We love you!

Happy Pride, Hampton Roads! I love you!