First Ames Pridefest kicks off in Bandshell Park

Audience members watch as the Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus performs at Bandshell Park as part of Ames Pridefest on Oct. 14. 

Jacey Goetzman

Clad in pride flags and ponchos, members of the Ames community and more gathered to celebrate the inaugural Ames Pridefest at Bandshell Park despite rain showers.

Ames Pride, partnered with the Ames Public Library, created the first annual Ames Pridefest in the hopes of building community. Over 400 people came, bringing visitors from Ames Middle School, churches and health organizations as well as others together.

Joel Hochstein, chair of Ames Pride, said the event was an overt place for folks to be, exist and celebrate each other as well as themselves in the heart of the city.

“I’m really excited to see Ames start this,” said Morgan Amos, a 2017 graduate of Ames High School.

Amos sported a rainbow flag given to her by her godmother. For Amos, it shows that she isn’t afraid to be herself. Pride gives Amos a place to express that.

“It’s a place where you can do anything and be whoever you want,” Amos said.

Amos, who has visited other Pride celebrations in the past, believes that the event should take place in every town where it can happen safely.

“It can be so terrifying to feel like you’re the only one going through something,” Amos said. “When you see these other people at a Pridefest … just being themselves, it gives you the strength to be like, ‘OK, well, I guess I’m not the only one.’”

At her first pride event, Amos recalled being the happiest she had ever been.

“I was just freaking out. I felt so amazing,” Amos said. “[I felt] empowered being myself.”

Deborah Blaedel, another Ames Pridefest attendee, expressed her feeling of pride by sporting a shirt that proclaimed she is the mother of a queer kid.

“I’m just a mom who’s proud of her kid,” Blaedel said. “They are articulate, brave, passionate about justice and willing to take risks for what they know is right.”

Blaedel not only loves her child, but also believes that having a queer kid has taught her more about knowing what is important in life and enjoying it.

“I wish I could share with all the parents who are having trouble with [their children’s identity] … that this is probably one of the best things that’s happened in their family and in their life if they could only embrace it and embrace their child,” Blaedel said.

Blaedel wishes she could show others that “we are all who we’re meant to be.”

Amos echoed the sentiment. She hopes to show that the LGBT community isn’t out there or unusual.

“We’re not on the other side of the wall,” Amos said. “We’re in the same world.”

Amos hopes events such as Ames Pridefest show that the LGBT community, as well as its allies, are welcoming.

“We like to be accepting,” Amos said. “We like to be a safe space. And Pridefest is the perfect way to do that.”

In the future, Amos hopes to see Ames Pridefest grow and expand. While plans haven’t yet begun for the following year, Hochstein said the attendance alone proved a need for the event.

“Folks at the institution have experience with faculty groups, with the staff groups, with the student groups, but what was lacking was a real connection to the community,” Hochstein said. “I think that this event can serve as a connection.”

The Ames Pridefest followed a designation Mayor Ann Campbell made earlier declaring Oct. 8 to 14 “Coming Out Week.”

“While it’s probably a small thing that only took 10 minutes at the city council meeting, it means so much to the community to have that kind of visibility,” said Nicci Port, a member of the Board of Directors for Ames Pride.

Going forward, Hochstein hopes others learn about “the immense amount of community support” that there is for LGBTQIA+ people within Ames. He added that this year has taught the organization a few lessons and plans to incorporate them within coming years.