116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The streets surrounding NewBo City Market were filled with hundreds of people Saturday morning before kickoff the Cedar Rapids Pride Fest — marking its grandest celebration ever.
The festival returned for its 30th year following cancellations in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic. CR Pride President Corey Jacobson estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people were present at noon — one hour after the festival started — but he expected a total of about 15,000 attendees for the entire event.
“With everything that has gone on in the last two years, we have heard from our community the importance that this plays in their day and in their lives,” Jacobson said. “Earlier this year when we were deciding, the board agreed that we have to come back and have a big party.”
The festival was extended this year by three hours and added new events, including a speaker series on LGBTQ topics and current events, silent disco and an after-party featuring Utica Queen from Season 13 of “RuPaul's Drag Race.”
Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell said at the festival that it is impressive and notable that Cedar Rapids is a place that has recognized the LGBTQ community for 30 years.
At the festival, food and apparel vendors and live music filled the plaza in front and inside NewBo City Market.
Jan Anderson, 70, of Cedar Rapids, said that she and her wife, Chris Anderson, 61, were one of the first couples to get married in Cedar Rapids after same-sex marriage was legalized in the state in 2009.
“We’ve come to this for many years,” Jan said. “It’s nice to see so much community support and to see a lot of people with different backgrounds coming together.”
Kaylin Hamilton, 16, of Cedar Rapids, said at the fest that it is important to celebrate who you are to have representation for younger individuals.
“It’s been a big uprising of LGBTQ people since quarantine and online representation went up,” Kaylin said.
Voices in CR Pride speaker series
Deacon Grayson, who spoke in the CR Pride speaker series, is a transgender man from Grinnell. A TikTok video that Grayson made about his journey taking testosterone in February went viral with 9.9 million views, prompting 194,000 followers on TikTok.
“I had like 25 followers on TikTok when I started. I woke up the next morning and it exploded,” Grayson said. “I now have 194,000 followers and a lot of them are kids. … I try really hard to acknowledge each comment. I am just me and I want people to know that they don’t have go through what I went through.”
Benjamin Roberson, civil rights lawyer with Community Law Office in Cedar Rapids, gave a presentation on federal and state laws impacting the LGBTQ community during the festival’s speaker series held in CSPS Hall.
“I think it's important that we as queer people have the education that we need, and I think that, yes, there are potential impacts for us in our community,” he said. “But the first and most important thing is the loss of rights for women” after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its Roe vs. Wade after nearly 50 years.
The moderator of a health care panel, Bridgette Hintermeister, who is a nurse at the University of Iowa Community Clinic in Cedar Rapids, said she asked questions of panelists surrounding health care access for LGBTQ individuals.
“I think just having knowledge of what's available to them even here locally or within the university is important,” she said. “There's a lot of options here even in Cedar Rapids that some people probably don't know about.”
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