PRIDE festival set for Thursday downtown

Group to block off 7th Street for LGBTQ+ festival Thursday night

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – With national Pride month underway across the nation, a group in Fort Madison is putting its best decorated foot forward.

Riverside PRIDE, a burgeoning Fort Madison non-profit, will be holding a block party festival on Thursday beginning at about 4 p.m. on 7th Street from Avenue G to Avenue F.

Danielle Neaves and Dan Dalstra came up with the idea about a year ago and started formulating plans for not just the event, but creating an environment where people associated with the LGBTQ+ movement can form a local community.

“There’s a lot of pockets of community members in the area who associate with LGBTQ+ movement, but they’re disconnected. This festival is to bring them all together in one area for one reason – to create a broader community,” Neaves said.

Dalstra said he approached Neaves and Fort Madison High School instructor Teri Holterhaus about creating something locally to allow individuals to associate with those who have the same passion.

“I’ve always been a big supporter of LBGTQ+. Burlington and Iowa City have events and I talked with Danielle and Teri, who’s leads the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) at the High School, and we agreed Fort Madison needs a PRIDE thing. I mentioned that to Danielle about a year ago and she said she had been thinking the same thing,” Dalstra said.

Dalstra said Fort Madison and Lee County needed some kind of representation to let people of those communities know they are accepted and loved here.

“That was the impetus as to why we wanted to have an event. I have never been to any kind of PRIDE event in my life or a drag show. But it sounded like fun so we started asking around and we found people who would say they have a friend that does this kind of thing in the area,” he said.

“So we got some numbers and started contacting local performers and they seemed excited to be a part of it.”

Neaves said the effort is part of a bigger agenda.

“Riverside Pride has been a passion project to provide a non-profit for the community where a central location can be found. We’re not looking at formal meetings, but get-togethers where people can just come and talk or play games throughout the year,” she said. “We want to do the annual festival for PRIDE, but also look at the bigger picture.”

She is in the process of completing a 501c3 status with the IRS.

The evening will include an open stage with at least four drag queens performing. Neaves said the stage will also be open for anyone who wants to share poetry, short stories, or personal experiences.

Vendors including Zen Soul Society, Blue Umbrella Bakery, a new cotton candy vendor called WTFlufff, students in the FMHS GSA club, Velvet Monarch, and others will be on hand during the festival.

There has annually been a Pride March in Fort Madison, but this event will take the place of that this year.

“Burlington has a PRIDE in the Park event and we kind of modeled this after that and then we added the drag show,” Neaves said.

“We thought a controlled environment and closing the street off would be the best option. We’re kind of starting from scratch here. We were originally looking at the PRIDE parade, but we worried about how many people would participate and how many would be there to just observe.”

Dalstra said the community has been very supportive of the new venture.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people we talked to have been enthusiastic about it. We talked to several business owners and just about everyone has been behind it and asking how they could be a part of it,” Dalstra said.

“I was sort of worried that we would get hateful comments and that hasn’t happened. There was some, but I don’t want negativity in this event. Almost everyone was overjoyed with us having it.”

The festival opens at 4 p.m. with vendors setting up from 3 to 4 p.m. Entertainment will run until 9 p.m with Eastern Iowa Queer Quire performing at 7 p.m. Electric Entertainment will then play music until 9 p.m.

A Riverside PRIDE booth will also be available for any looking for more information.

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