Pride Fest June 10-12 festival is as East Village as apple pie6/8/2016
Iowans are famous for being “Iowa nice,” but Des Moines made history in 1977 by way of a press conference where two non-Iowan activists and a slice of fruit pie apparently didn’t get the memo.
Beauty-queen-turned-singer-turned anti-gay-rights crusader Anita Bryant, who was in town lobbying against legislation regarding employment protections for homosexuals, had a piece of pie tossed in her face mid-sentence by gay-activist Tom Higgins.
“Well, at least it’s a fruit pie,” Bryant quipped as she wiped away the whipped topping.
It’s unknown if the “fruit” she identified was indeed in the pie, or if she was making an off-the-cuff derogatory comment, but the incident is widely regarded as one of the first uses of “pieing” as a political act. It prefaced a nationwide flurry of LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) activism and various marches on state capitols.
June is LGBT Pride Month, and the movement has undoubtedly entered the main stage. From June 10-12, the East Village will once again host Capital City PrideFest’s annual festival, parade and concert, which, according to the group’s board, commemorates the 38th years since a small group of locals “marched up to the capitol to celebrate the LGBT community.”
What’s new this year?
This year’s event will again be in the East Village, but in a slightly different location.
“We’ve moved (the festival) to Walnut Street,” said Eugenia Kutsch-Stanton, vice president of Capital City Pride. “Hopefully that can be a ‘forever’ spot.”
Also new this year, the event will feature two different stages, and both will have live performances.
“We’re having a concert stage, which is paid,” said Kutsch-Stanton. “And then our festival stage (is free).”
Admission to the Sunday parade and to the festival grounds is free, and tickets for the concert stage are $10 per night or $20 for both nights.
The festival stage is primarily stocked with local performers, said Kutsch-Stanton. The gates open at noon on both Saturday and Sunday, and the first act will start around 1:45 p.m. Performances on the paid stage are at the Garden Nightclub and will run from 5 p.m. until whenever they’re over on both Friday and Saturday, probably around midnight. Kutsch-Stanton also pointed out that even while performances on the paid stage are underway, something fun will also be running concurrently on the festival stage.
The parade is free as well and is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 12. It will begin behind the capitol in the parking lot near East 12th Street. Onlookers can view the parade in the area along East Locust Street between East Seventh and East Second streets. The parade ends at Robert D. Ray Road near Simon Estes Amphitheater.
After the parade ends, the celebration moves to the festival grounds along East Walnut Street from East Fourth to East Sixth streets. There, the grand marshal, Iowa House Representative Liz Bennett, will be honored, and the second annual Robert Eikleberry Award will be awarded to Tink Harvey for community service.
Pre-Pride events include a “Smoke Out Grill Out” on Friday evening, June 10 at 7 p.m. at the Blazing Saddle.
Last year, PrideFest endured some inclement weather, but Kutsch-Stanton expects a strong showing this year.
“We figure between 15,000 to 20,000 people will come,” she said. “Last year was a success, although we did have rain.”
Kutsch-Stanton is a volunteer for the organization and said that Capital City Pride consists entirely of unpaid workers.
“One thing that impresses me is (everyone’s) commitment,” she said. “They work hard. Anyone can get involved with Pride. We welcome everyone. Allies are welcome, and this is an opportunity to support diversity and inclusion.”
Let the good times roll
PrideFest is about celebrating the LGBT cause, but it also offers a plethora of fun things to do. In fact, Tina She, who helps open the concert stage on Friday night, warns Des Moines to get ready for “the gayest song I’ve ever written. It’s called ‘I Choose Love.’ ”
She described the song as “a rainbow wrapped in a unicorn sunset pot of gold,” and she will have T-shirts with those lyrics available at her Pride performance, which is also her first solo performance in Des Moines. She is slated to perform on Friday at 10 p.m. at the Garden Nightclub’s concert stage.
She sings and plays guitar. She plays both originals and covers.
“And I have lots of funny stories,” She said. “I like to talk to my audience and connect with them.
“My music is kind of like hip-hop with singing and no rapping. My songs are about heavy subjects but also some lighthearted stuff, redemption, grief, love and loss. I feel like people can really relate to it. We’re all different. It doesn’t matter what we are, we can choose to love each other instead of focusing on what makes us different. I hope people gain strength from (PrideFest).”
Acceptance into the mainstream is a positive step for the gay community, but She is observing that gay spaces — or spots that are specifically reserved for people with alternative sexual lifestyles — are dwindling, and that’s why she appreciates the Pride events.
“Pride is to celebrate and to have a good time, be with your peeps and support each other,” She said. “It’s a good way to get a sense of solidarity that you don’t always see a lot of the other times of the year.”
Also performing on the concert stage is Be Steadwell at 11 p.m. and DJ Pain 1 a.m. On Saturday night, Thea Austin will perform, followed by Thelma Houston and then Debbie Gibson.
She formerly comprised one-half of the hip-hop soul duo God Des and She but has now taken her act solo and debuts a new album later this month.
It’s as East Village
as apple pie
The East Village is full of unique shops that aren’t found elsewhere, from The Des Moines Bicycle Collective with refurbished bikes, HOQ’s farm-to-fork restaurant, Raygun’s “greatest store in the universe” or the Olympic Flame’s live belly dancers who perform their Middle Eastern brand of dance while customers eat authentic Greek fare.
But not everyone knows that the East Village has the highest sales tax productivity in the Des Moines metro area on a per-acre basis, according to Iowa Department of Economic Development.
According to the Historic East Village Neighborhood Association President Dr. Chris LoRang, owner of Capital Chiropractic & Rehabilitation Center at 601 E. Locust St., much of the East Village’s success can be attributed to events like PrideFest.
“I think the East Village wouldn’t exist without PrideFest,” LoRang said. “And perhaps PrideFest wouldn’t be the same if the East Village were different. I think it is a symbiotic relationship.”
LoRang said the neighborhood is supportive of the festival, and they’ve been happy to evolve with the event. Their relationship has changed during the years because the dynamics of the neighborhood has changed. He notes that the majority of shops in the East Village consist of small business owners offering retail services to customers. Most have their largest grossing days on Fridays and Saturdays. But he said shop owners have been supportive of the event because PrideFest organizers have been appropriate in changing the streets they utilize.
New East Village barbershop owner and resident Jordan Peterson agrees. He opened Paramount Barbering Co. at 311 E. Fifth St. about six months ago. This is his first time with the event, but he’s looking forward to the parade and festivities.
Most of Peterson’s clients are by appointment. He said he’ll give them extra coaching on where to park for those days.
“I think it’s an important thing,” he said about the festival. “It might be tough for some businesses, but it’ll bring added attention to us, too.”
He said that there could be some parking issues, but he didn’t think it would be a problem.
“I have lots of gay clients. This is a good thing to celebrate,” he said. “Even if it does hurt sales, it’s only one (weekend). I’ll be here cutting hair.”
Peterson said the East Village challenges even the safest social norms. His evidence is that his own barbershop caters to not just males, but to females as well.
“We do short hair,” he said pointing to a female with a fresh cut. “We do some women, too.”
LoRang agrees that it’s the diversity of the people in the East Village that drives its growth.
He tells of being encouraged by a neighborhood service industry worker in the East Village who went through a gender transformation.
“It’s pretty cool to see,” he said. “When at other places or other times, the person might have had a much harder time.”
The East Village exists in the shadow of the capitol, and at various times there are people in suits walking around or others riding skateboards — both can be found at PrideFest.
“I think those people can often times be the same people,” he said. “Maybe that’s why this place is so vibrant. You can be in any shape or form and be welcome.”
LoRang is originally from Davenport. When he and his wife decided to move to Des Moines, they looked around the city for the right place to start a business. He said they chose the East Village because “I can grab a cup of tea, or lunch or ride my bike to work.”
He admits that people not familiar with the area have a fear about finding parking, but LoRang contends it’s unwarranted.
“People fear parking, but in all actuality, a similar comparison, if you park at Jordan Creek on a busy day, you’re going to park at the back of the lot, and then you’re going to walk to get into the mall, and then you’re going to walk a certain distance to get to the store you want to get to,” he said. “In all likelihood, (here in the East Village), you’ll find a parking spot closer to your shop than you would there.”
LeRong thinks the event should be held in the East Village every year.
“I think it’d be great,” he said. “I think it started here. And without the popularity of that event, I don’t think the East Village would be as popular as it is now.
“Should it be here forever? Well, shoot. This year is probably one of the most important years for it yet, with all of this important discussion happening across the country and in the political debates. It should be here, and it should be bigger than ever.
“It’s wild how emotional people get about this topic. It’s sort of sad that, so often it turns to anger, when we could all learn so much. And that’s the whole intent of Pride.” CV
Top 5 things to do at Capital City Pride 2016
Pride Parade — This annual event is big, festive and fun. Attendees will see all sorts of creative and colorful floats. Sunday at 1 p.m.
Debbie Gibson — This national celebrity is a singer, songwriter, actress and dancer. Debbie Gibson has dazzled the world for more than two decades with her singing voice and stage charm. She has had hits such as “Foolish Beat” and “Only In My Dreams” on the charts, and now she’s coming to PrideFest 2016. Saturday at 9:15 p.m. at the Garden.
Iowa Drag — Every good pride festival features a great drag show. Come watch as Des Moines’ citizenry disregard their gender. 8 p.m. on Saturday on the festival stage.
Be Steadwell — A singer-songwriter with roots in jazz, a cappella and folk, Be Steadwell combines loop-pedal vocal layering and beat-boxing to leave her fans wanting to see more. Friday at 11 p.m. at the Garden.
Origami Animals — We will leave this production to your imagination. But rest assured, you’ll have to see it to believe it. Friday at 9 p.m., on the festival stage. CV
|How to throw a parade
The parade-planning process isn’t easy, but it’s also not as difficult as you might expect. Kandi Reindl, assistant to the city manager, helps citizens navigate their way through the parade hosting process and regulations.
Reindl said the first step in hosting a parade is filling out and submitting a Commercial Street Use Application and Agreement to the City Manager’s Office at least 90 days prior to the event. Along with this form, there is a $250 non-refundable application fee with a diagram of the area or route the event will be held. If the event will last longer than an hour, applicants must receive a 60 percent approval by the businesses affected.
“We try and work with parades and get them on streets that are less impactful,” she said.
She said the 90 days of lead time allows various city departments to review the feasibility of application. Up to eight departments must review the information.
“We have a lot of events, close to 200 (that close or block off city streets),” she said, adding that Des Moines has 10-15 parades each year, and the rest are festivals, smaller block parties and get-togethers.
After the application is turned in, it will be reviewed, and then it is submitted for approval or denial. Once a month, the city holds a Street Use Meeting to approve or deny the applications and to give cost estimates on reimbursing the city for services like police protection or “bagging” the parking meters. If the event occurs during business hours, the applicant must also pay the city for any lost parking revenue, and private companies must be contracted for barricading the route.