116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Pride, love and celebration filled downtown streets Saturday afternoon as hundreds of people flooded into the Iowa City Pride Festival, featuring performers, vendors and a parade.
The Iowa City Pride organization started in 1970. In the beginning, Iowa City Pride Interim President Jewell Amos said, the organization focused on protest and awareness. But over time, it has transitioned into a celebration of accomplishments.
“We still want to, like show people that we are caring, and there's still work to be done in our community,” Amos said. “But we also want to celebrate the victories that we have had along the way.”
Amos has watched the festival grow since 2007 when she started volunteering with the organization.
“It was a small festival with just a few hundred people in a city park,” Amos said. “And when we got a chance to move it downtown, and also got our official 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, then we were able to reach even more people and build the community a lot more.”
Amos wanted Saturday’s festival to help build an accepting environment of the LGBTQ community.
“This allows the vendors a chance to express to the community, hey, we are open and accepting of the queer community,” Amos said. “And then it also gives the queer community places that they know are safe places to go.”
The festival featured performers including Alisabeth Von Presley, a singer from Cedar Rapids who represented Iowa in the first American Song Contest program on NBC. Von Presley said her goal, through her music, is to promote a “real women” body image and instill confidence in youth through music.
Marchers made their way through the downtown streets with signs that said “Disarm Hate,” “Love is Love” and “Protect Trans Youth.”
Kathryn Reter, 27 of Iowa City, said she attended the festival to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Reter said she believes Iowa City provides a more inclusive space compared with other areas of Iowa and the Midwest.
“In the Midwest, I think it's a newer success story. Where people here, folks can be themselves, like without fear of harassment entirely,” Reter said.
Terry Zimmerly, a representative at the First Mennonite Church booth at the festival, wants people to know that the church believes God’s love is for everybody.
“We acknowledged that we have harmed (the LGBTQ community) in the past, and in very concrete ways say we're sorry,” Zimmerly said. “And we celebrate you in our lives, and to create a church that celebrates who you are, with no restrictions.”
Zimmerly said this is the church’s second year of participating in the festival. The parade, he said, is his favorite part because it highlights diversity.
”These kinds of festivals show that there is a diversity of people and experiences and ways to live life,“ Zimmerly said, ”and that it's good.“