Iowa City's Pride Festival celebrates 47 years

Thousands line streets Saturday for parade, festival

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IOWA CITY — Nathan Kelley hoped that when community members walked through the Pedestrian Mall in Iowa City on Saturday that they realized at least one thing: people in the LGBTQ community are just like everybody else.

And they know how to throw a good party.

With thousands lining the streets of downtown Iowa City on Saturday afternoon and into the evening, IC Pride Festival provided a safe haven for free expression, inclusion and a “Dump Trump” tank.

“We pretty much pack the place,” said Jewell Amos, former president and current IC Pride adviser. “[Each year] it tends to get more packed, more crazy and more fun.”

More than 70 vendors also decorated the streets Saturday, many of them being business, churches, nonprofits or artists representing themselves as allies to the LGBTQ community.

Amos said that by being able to highlight diversity in people and by pulling together with similar interests in the community, it allows for a positive experience on all ends.

It is not to say, however, that everyone has to subscribe to each other’s beliefs.

“It’s a way of building bridges and being ourselves,” Amos said. “There are things [at Pride] that I wouldn’t do, or business or churches that I don’t support that are there, but I have option to talk to and get to know them and educate myself.”

The goal of IC Pride, Amos said, is to just walk away with a positive experience.

While the festival and parade were on Saturday, IC Pride was also celebrated earlier in the week through events like the “Big Gay Bar Crawl” on Tuesday and a Pride Picnic on Friday night.

Entertainment on Saturday included performances by the IC Queens and Kings, the Quire traditional choral group, Iowa City’s Heartland Bombshells, the Kahrman Near East Dance Company and Avery Riot — a Cedar Rapids-based party band that combines rock and pop.

Kelley, president of IC Pride, said that more people were volunteering with IC Pride and more regularly showing up to meetings, something he hopes — and sees as a possibility — will help continue to grow IC Pride.

“It’s growing. Our 50th anniversary is coming up in three years,” he said. “We want it to be a humongous celebration. We’re seeing it move there.”

Also new this year was a Dark and Lovely Lounge, organized by Kendra Malone, diversity resources coordinator at the University of Iowa.

The Dark and Lovely Lounge served as an intentional space for LGBTQ people of color, Nolan Petersen, IC Pride board secretary, said, as it was purposeful built around and for people of color.

As a whole, IC Pride also featured a “Kink U” workshop, which focused on safe practices in the BDSM community and Q-munity Yoga, a community yoga session. All proceeds raised by the “Dunk Trump” tank were donated to Studio 13 to host their weekly dance party for people with disabilities.

While there is a dunk tank each year — last year the theme was drag queens — Amos said that dunking Trump will be a good way for some to let off steam.

“[We’re going to] throw humor at it,” Amos said. “We do what we can to protest and have our voices heard, we just prefer to do it in a slightly humorous way.”

With origins as early as 1969, IC Pride credits its existence to the protests that occurred both in Iowa City but nationwide as a reaction to the Stonewall Riots that followed a police raid at a gay club in New York that year, Amos said.

In 1970, another march was held on the anniversary of the riots.

Since then, the face of IC Pride has changed. It’s no longer an annual protest or a march, but has evolved with time — a festival and parade now the more recognized events.

As it entered its 47th year, Kelley said he hopes IC Pride will someday large as the Iowa City Arts Festival — a three-day weekend celebration that brings in crowds of roughly 10,000.

Kelley’s favorite thing about IC Pride, no matter the size, is the atmosphere of acceptance the annual festival provides.

“You get to see people that you haven’t seen in forever, but they all come back for Pride weekend,” he said. “Being a part of the gay community, you get to hang out with family.”

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“You get to see people that you haven’t seen in forever, but they all come back for Pride weekend. Being a part of the gay community, you get to hang out with family.”

- Nathan Kelley

IC Pride President

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