The second annual Ames Pridefest attracted more than 1,000 people of all ages and identities on Saturday in downtown Ames.
The event featured drag performances, drag queen story time and a gay men’s chorus performance. There were also dozens of vendors who provided services to attendees. Ames Pride, a non-profit organization, hosted the event.
Mara Spooner, co-chair of Ames Pride, said they first decided to organize a pride festival after the fall 2016 election.
“At that time, a lot of us were anxious and nervous and wanted to do something productive with that energy,” Spooner said. “We saw that there were not a lot of organizations in the queer community outside of campus.”
As an organizaiton, Ames Pride was formed after the first PrideFest at Bandshell Park.
“After the event, we took a step further and formed Ames Pride as a non-profit organization,” Spooner said. “Ames Pridefest has become one of the signature events of Ames Pride.”
Spooner said being in a place that is perceived as more conservative or less-inclusive makes it more important to organize events like this so that people have a space to “be visible and to just be together.”
Ames Pridefest offered free branded merchandise. It also had various vendors at the event, such as food trucks and commercial vendors.
“We want people to know they have a place in Ames they belong to and feel a little bit connected to their home,” Spooner said. “To let them know that they are not here alone, and there are people who love and support them.”
Sarah Mansell is a stay-at-home mom and brought her three children to the event. Mansell said they promote open-mindedness in her family.
“I don’t think Pridefest is about adult activities. It’s about being social,” Mansell said. “I want my children to know there all kinds of people in the world, even though we do live in a homogeneous place.”
Danika, 23, and Lisa, 27, said they try to attend as many Pride festivals as they can.
“We love being around other gay people,” Danika said. “A lot of people in Ames like to think Ames is so much better than other rural areas in Iowa, but we have our own issues. To have an event like this is definitely a step towards being able to show that we are inclusive.”
Lisa said she doesn’t feel very represented in Ames.
“It’s moving toward a right direction, but a lot of stuff in Ames just doesn’t show inclusivity to LGBTQ+ community,” Lisa said. “We have no gay scene here at all. I think we can do better other than underground activities.”
Jace Markstone was one of the performers at the event. He was there as a hyper-male drag performer, meaning he performed male drag as a male.
“There are different types of drag,” Markstone said. “There is also fem drag. Those are females who do drag. And drag queens are males who do drag. Also, drag kings are females do male drag. It’s a diverse performance form.”
Markstone is a professional drag performer based in Des Moines.
“I’m glad here to spread the word and let people know there are all types of LGBTQ+ culture,” Markstone said.
The event featured drag performers from all ages with the youngest being 11-year-old Lonika LaBelle. She loves to sing, act and dance. LaBelle said she wants to be a professional drag queen or perform on Broadway when she grows up.
Editors note: Two of the sources withheld their last names due to privacy reasons.