CRPrideFest is a volunteer run, non-profit organization with the charge of organizing a community wide celebration highlighting the LGBTQIA+ community. Through the work of the Board of Directors and partnering with local businesses, CRPrideFest is able to provide the Linn County area with a diverse series of events that continue the growth of building an inclusive community.
The GLRC of Cedar Rapids was formed in 1992 by a group of 30 dedicated Cedar Rapids citizens to maintain a free space for GLB people to meet, socialize and have access to resources. The GLRC stood for The Gay and Lesbian Resource Center of Cedar Rapids and the mission of the early group was to gather books, movies and information about GLB people and make it available to the public. The group offered the local population and visitors to the area a listing of GLB friendly businesses and non-profits.
The locations varied from year to year and were rented as available from local organizations. The group members and community volunteers took turns maintaining the space and making it available almost daily for gatherings and walk in traffic. The group held fundraisers, including an annual picnic and flag football tournament to raise money for purchasing resources and renting the space. The center also maintained an open phone line, shared in cycles by the members, to field calls and answer questions. A newsletter was published and mailed on a quarterly basis and distributed to local establishments. It included a calendar of events and articles of local and national interest. It also contained advertising from local businesses and organizations.
In response to national pride days becoming popular and the community enjoying the social outings, the first Gay Pride Day in Cedar Rapids was held in June of 1995. The event was held in conjunction with other Gay Pride Celebrations in the United States as June is Gay Pride Month. The GLRC’s mission expanded from running the center to sponsoring and organizing Cedar Rapid’s annual gay pride celebration.
In the early 2000’s it was becoming difficult for the group to maintain a brick and mortar space because rent was high and there were not enough volunteers from the community to keep the center staffed on a regular basis. The onset of the internet made the need for a single resource center obsolete. The center was closed and all resources were stored with members or at a locally owned restaurant, Hamburger Mary’s, which became a meeting place for LGBT youth and adults.
In 2007 the original members were gone from the GLRC of Cedar Rapids and the group had faded out. Cedar Rapids Gay Pride was in jeopardy with no one at the helm of the board. A Cedar Valley Pride volunteer moved to Cedar Rapids, called for a new board and recruited new members. It was under this board that the sole mission of the GLRC became Gay Pride Day and the name was briefly changed to CR UNITY.
In 2010 Hamburger Mary’s closed and all remaining resources gathered by the original members were dispersed or lost. The name was changed back to GLRC of Cedar Rapids DBA as CRPrideFest under the current board. The 501c3 was reinstated in 2014.
The traditional space for Pride Day has been Green Square Park in downtown Cedar Rapids. In 2014, the park began undergoing a makeover, leading the current board to find another venue. The insurance and cost for many places in Cedar Rapids were more than the budget would allow. The owner of Belle’s Basix stepped up and offered the bar parking lot, giving the CRPrideFest a free venue while the owner absorbed much of the expenses for insurance, bathrooms, garbage and more. In 2015 and 2016 Gay Pride Day would again be celebrated in the parking lot to give the group time to utilize its newly reissued 501c3, to raise more funds, find a new venue and expand visibility in the community.
In 2017 a new board elected a new venue and date which has transferred into 2018. CRPrideFest is now held the first week of July at NewBo City Market in downtown Cedar Rapids.