Celebrating with pride: Iowa City Pride expands mission, festival

Parade participants wave to the crowds during the Iowa City Pride Parade in downtown Iowa City on Saturday, June 17, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Parade participants wave to the crowds during the Iowa City Pride Parade in downtown Iowa City on Saturday, June 17, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — In two years, Iowa City Pride will turn 50 years old. That makes it one of the oldest Pride parades and festivals around — it launched just one year after the first Pride march was held in New York City to mark the one year anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots. A lot has changed since then.

“We started with a group marching in the (University of Iowa) Homecoming Parade in protest,” said Christine Hawes, who handles communications and community for Iowa City Pride. “And this year, the University of Iowa is a sponsor.”

The UI isn’t the only sponsor. Last June, Iowa City Pride secured federal 501(c)3 status for the organization, which previously had only held state level nonprofit status.

“We knew the 50th anniversary was coming up, and we wanted the organization to grow and celebrate that,” said Iowa City Pride President Nathan Kelley.

With the federal status comes the opportunity to raise more dollars and secure major sponsorships, as donations to federally recognized nonprofits can be included in charitable giving documented with tax returns.

With the infusion of outside sponsorship, after almost five decades of activism, festivals, picnics in the park and parades, the board is ready to expand its mission.

“We’ve attracted more than 30 sponsors this year,” Hawes said. “Iowa City Pride is about to turn the corner from a small town event to become a statewide leader.”


Along with throwing a bigger festival with more entertainers this year, their goal is to look beyond throwing one annual event to wider outreach. So far, that has meant both hosting more events throughout the year, such as a “Come as You Are” Ball in May. It has also included sponsoring other LGBTQ-friendly groups like the Quire, a choral group for LGBTQ community members, as well as a scholarship to send an Iowa City teenager to Pride Camp hosted by Iowa Safe Schools. They are planning things like college scholarship funds in the future. And this spring, they donated 100 books to Iowa City elementary schools.

“We feel like, we have all this support, we want to spread it around and be a bit of a beacon,” Hawes said.

The book donation was Kelley’s idea. A music teacher at Robert Lucas Elementary School, he wanted to do something for the National Education Association’s Read Across America initiative in March.

Shortly after that, the board heard about controversy in Orange City in northwest Iowa, where some community members wanted books with LGBTQ content either removed from public library shelves or relegated to their own section of the shelves.

“It was a demonstration of why we needed to do this,” Hawes said.

Kelley also cited a July, 2017, report by the UI Public Policy Center that analyzed data from Iowa City School District Student Experiences of School Climate Report and found LGBTQ-identifiying students were much more likely to say they felt unsafe in school.

“These donations are important because when a child walks into a library and picks up a book, they can say, ‘Wow, this child is going through the same thing I am.’ They’re not alone,” he said.

He said each of the books — five were donated to 20 different schools — were recommended by Iowa Safe Schools and meet district and state requirements.

The donated books are:

“Morris Mickelwhite and the Tangerine Dress” (Christina Baldacchino), about how a boy’s interest in a tangerine dress leads him to build a spaceship for his friends.


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“Introducing Teddy” (Jess Walton and Dougal MacPherson), about a boy, his teddy, gender identity, and friendship.

“10,000 Dresses” (Marcus Ewert), an award-winning tale of a trans girl seeking “the dress of her dreams”

“Jacob’s New Dress” (Sarah Hoffman), about a boy who wants to wear “girl” clothes.

“I Am Jazz” by (Jessica Herthel), based on the real-life experiences of Jazz Jennings, a trans teen girl who has become a YouTube sensation.

Iowa City Pride hope the book donations can continue, possibly with junior high and high school books in future years.

“The books are intended to be the first philanthropic effort,” Kelley said.

But he hopes they won’t be the last.

l Comments: (319) 398-8339;

If you go: Iowa City Pride parade and festival

l Iowa City Pride Parade, noon, June 16, along College Street, Linn Street, Dubuque Street, Iowa Avenue and Johnson St., starting and finishing at College Green Park.

l PrideFest, 1 to 6 p.m., June 16, Washington Street between Dubuque and Gilbert Streets, with booths, food and live entertainment, followed by evening performances from 6 to 9:30 p.m.

l Schedule: 1 p.m. Elizabeth Moen; 1:30 p.m. Haus of Eden drag troupe; 2 p.m. Kahraman Dance Studio belly dancers; 2:30 p.m. Pride Royalty, featuring Ronnie Belle, Sam A. Ski, Abel Justice, Chey Boi, Hollywood Hope, Ophelia Belle, Ebony Belle, Sinclaire Snaps, Gina Belle and Myling Belle; 3 p.m. youth drag show; 3:30 p.m. IC Kings drag king troupe; 4 p.m. Heartland Bombshells burlesque troupe; 4:30 p.m. The Quire choral group; 5 p.m. Six Odd Rats blues and soul group; 6 p.m. Cher impersonator Candi Stratton; 6:30 p.m. Alisabeth Von Presley; 8 p.m. RuPaul Drag Race Queens Roxxxy Andrews, Monica Beverly Hillz and JuJuBee plus drag king Joey D

If you go: Pride Week events


l Pride Night at the Roller Derby, 5:15 p.m. today, Marriott, 300 E. Ninth St., Coralville, $13. Old Capitol City All-Stars versus St. Chux Chix.

l The Quire: Out of the Shadows, 7 to 10 p.m. today, Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, 1301 Fifth St., Coralville, donations accepted. The Quire of Southeastern Iowa explores the work of renowned poet Maya Angelou and local composer Steve Milloy to share the life story of civil rights pioneer Bayard Rustin.

l Pride at FilmScene: “Appropriate Behavior,” 7 p.m. Monday, FilmScene 118 E. College St., Iowa City, $6.50 to $9.

l Pride pre-party and bar crawl, starts 5 p.m. Tuesday, various locations, details at

l Drop the Mic for Pride, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Studio 13, 13 S. Linn St., Iowa City, free to $5. Spoken word artists and poets take the mic to share their thoughts on Pride, presented by The Hook. 18 years and over event.

l I.C. Kings Pride Show, 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Studio 13, 13 S. Linn St., Iowa City, $5.

l Pride Picnic, 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Upper City Park, 200 Park Road, Iowa City, free. Iowa City Pride and Hy-Vee provide the food, with games for kids, sign making for Saturday’s parade and more.

l Pride Pub Quiz, 8 to 10 p.m. Friday, Deadwood Tavern, 6 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City, $2.

l Queer Coffee Shop, 9 to 11 a.m. June 16, Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City, donations accepted. Transformative Healing will host this safe, inclusive space to meet with their staff and learn about their services, plus refreshments from Java House.

l Meet & Greet with RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, 10 to 11 p.m. June 16, Studio 13, 13 S. Linn St., Iowa City.


l “McKellen: Playing the Part,” 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City, $10 to $15.

l Pride Drag Brunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 17, Sanctuary Pub, 405 S. Gilbert St., Iowa City. Drag starts will serenade you as you dine at this all-ages event.

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