Fans to boldly go to Riverside for the 32nd annual Trek Fest

Trek Fest XXXII

Hall Park, Riverside — June 24–25, 2016

A float in the 2015 Trek Fest parade -- image via the Trek Fest photo archives.
A float in the 2015 Trek Fest parade — image via the Trek Fest photo archives.

We’re less than 212 years out from the birth of the greatest fictional captain (with apologies to Captains Ahab, Kangaroo and Mal Reynolds), and the annual celebration of his legacy is once again about to go into full swing. On Friday, June 24, at 5 p.m., Trek Fest begins, with food booths, a beer garden and carnival rides. For the 32nd year, Riverside will hold this festival in honor of its declaration as the “future birthplace” of one James Tiberius Kirk: stalwart leader, lover of green women and proud Iowan.

According to a flyer for this year’s event on the Trek Fest website, the city of Riverside petitioned Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry in 1984 to become the official “small town in Iowa” that Roddenberry had stated as the origin for his series’ hero. This method of slicing through the open question of which town that might be by simply claiming it is a fitting tribute to Kirk’s own decisive and unconventional style of leadership (exemplified in his triumph over the unbeatable Kobayashi Maru test by simply reprogramming it).

Since that declaration, Riverside has become a mecca for Trekkies, Trekkers and casual fans alike, culminating yearly in the Trek Fest event. As much about celebrating community as celebrating science fiction, Trek Fest is about as Iowan as a small town Iowa festival can get — the SciFi Swap Meet (Saturday, June 25 at 11 a.m.) is the perfect example of this loving collision of worlds. Saturday afternoon’s costume contest sign-up is in direct competition with the start of bingo at the community center.

A 2015 parade float honors Trek actors who passed away that year -- image via the Trek Fest photo archives.
A 2015 parade float honors Trek actors who passed away that year — image via the Trek Fest photo archives.

This year, the event has even more to celebrate, as the Star Trek franchise hits a respectable 50 years (the original series debuted on Sep. 8, 1966). Across the country, fans are honoring that milestone — even the U.S. Postal Service is getting in on the fun, announcing the designs yesterday for a set of Star Trek stamps coming in September. This anniversary is the theme of Trek Fest’s 2016 parade, which starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

There’s a layer of sadness over the festivities as well, though, coming less than a week after the sudden death of actor Anton Yelchin, who died in an accident last Sunday at the age of 27. Yelchin had revived the role of Chekov in the franchise reboot movies, including the third, Star Trek Beyond, which opens next month.

What Trek Fest offers fans and locals, whether they’re celebrating, mourning or both, is the chance to come together. Most of the Trek Fest events are free; bingo is $0.50 per card and the demo derby (Saturday, 5 p.m.) is $10 for adults, $5 for children 6–12 (under 6, free). The Riverside Area Community Club, which sponsors the event, uses proceeds for community needs such as academic scholarships, playground equipment and support of local first responders. There will be music from Tom & the Tribbles (Saturday, 11:50 a.m.) and movie screenings (each night at 8 p.m.), but don’t miss the chance to gather behind Riverside Elementary School on Friday night at 9 p.m., and join the Cedar Amateur Astronomers for the true origin of Star Trek fandom: gazing at the stars.

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