NewBo City Market — Saturday, July 7 at 11 a.m.
As many as 7,000 people are expected at Cedar Rapids PrideFest this Saturday, in addition to almost 100 vendor booths including animals rescue groups, churches and theaters. Attendees can look forward to a drag show, live music, political speakers — including Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart — and a performance by the Eastern Iowa Circus Collective. The event has grown rapidly in the past two years, thanks in part to the new location on the lawn of NewBo City Market.
“The NewBo neighborhood is evolving and figuring out what it wants to be and PrideFest is evolving as well,” Matthew Van Maanen, who has attended CRPrideFest for the past 20 years, said. “I’m excited to see how they can grow together.”
Since the 1990s, pride celebrations were held at Cedar Rapids’ Green Square Park. When the park began undergoing renovations, the event was moved to the parking lot of Belle’s Basix on 1st Avenue, where it was held in 2015 and 2016. Although the organizers were appreciative that they were able to use the lot, the space was simply too small.
“We made a big push to grow the event and increase sponsorship in order to move to NewBo,” CR PrideFest board member Jen Rowray said. “NewBo is super accessible and big enough to support future growth.”
Next Page Books, across the street from the market, added a simultaneous event on Saturday to support PrideFest and as an alternative for those looking to get out of the heat. They will host Dr. Loren Olson of Des Moines for a reading from his 2011 book Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight. The neighborhood seems to be a good fit overall, Rowray said.
“The business owners in the area are a super friendly bunch of people. We went around the neighborhood passing out rainbow flags and they were very supportive,” she said.
“The organizers really stepped up when they were needed the most,” Van Maanen said about the changes to the event. “It used to be such as small event and now it has woven itself into the fabric of Cedar Rapids. It’s really exciting that it’s in NewBo, which is becoming a vibrant area for arts and culture.”
Van Maanen also said that he is excited to see how the next generation will change pride and future pride events. “Pride doesn’t just mean one thing, it’s different for everyone,” he said. “Maybe if this generation already feels comfortable being out in public pride will take on a new meaning for them.”
Rowray emphasized that everyone is welcome at the event this weekend. “Our mission is to be super diverse. We want families to come, straight people to come and any members of the community to come. It’s about being visible and celebrating together.”