Sharing Pride in Fort Dodge
A year ago, Kyrie Borsay set out to organize an event for LGBTQ Pride Month in June. She was surprised to learn that Fort Dodge had never had a Pride Month event before.
When Borsay, who identifies as a queer woman and owns KD’s Over the Moon on Central Avenue, moved to Fort Dodge, she felt that there wasn’t a very active LGBTQ community here.
“I came to Fort Dodge and I was like ‘Where are my people?'” she told The Messenger last summer. “In Cedar Falls, where I came from, we had a great Pride group.”
Borsay believes it’s important for members of the LGBTQ community to have a place to come together as a community, so she decided she was going to put together Fort Dodge’s first-ever Pride event.
“I thought if I have to pay for it all out of my own pocket, I’m going to do it,” she said. “And I have, and it’s been my pleasure because I want this event to grow.”
As the event drew nearer, more members of the community stepped up to help out, including Rhiannon Rippke-Koch.
The day of the Fort Dodge Pride Festival came and it was a day of celebration and joy for the LGBTQ community.
A few hundred people, both members of the LGBTQ community and allies, started the celebration with a Rainbow Walk down Central Avenue before coming back to the Square.
There were several vendors, LGBTQ organizations, games, crafts and entertainment all day.
Since June’s fabulously successful event, the Fort Dodge Pride Festival organization has grown tremendously. In December, the organization officially became a 501(c) non-profit and has a six-person board of directors.
“We try to keep our board as diverse as possible,” Borsay, who is now the board’s president, said. “We need all voices. We try to keep all the voices at the table.”
“I have been amazed by the support we have been shown, the willingness of other Fort Dodge organizations and the city council to see our potential and help us to grow,” said Rippke-Koch, who is the board’s vice president. “We still have a ways to go, but I am hopeful as we get bigger that we will be able to do great things for the LGBTQ+ community within our town.”
Earlier this month, Fort Dodge Pride Festival partnered with the Fort Dodge Fine Arts Association to produce a staging of the play “The Vagina Monologues” at the FDFAA Phillips Auditorium.
Once a month, the group hosts an intergenerational meet-up at KD’s Over the Moon. Usually held on the third Sunday of the month, the meet-ups are a time to socialize, play games, enjoy snacks and just spend time together in a space where it’s safe for LGBTQ people to just be themselves. Ages range from 9-years-old to 75-years-old.
Rippke-Koch said the idea for an intergenerational meet-up came from Jen Anderson with North Central Iowa LGBTQ and Sarah SmallCarter and Demarcus Carter, who have a young transgender daughter. They brought it to the Pride Fest board and they ran with the idea.
In November, they held a “friends-giving” Thanksgiving potluck, and in December, they had a holiday party with a white elephant gift exchange. Last week, they had a Valentine’s Day party.
The organization’s long-term goals include opening a community center where LGBTQ people of all ages can come together in a safe space, Ripple-Koch said. She said they’d have resources for parents of LGBTQ children and offer the space for student groups to meet if they don’t want to meet at their schools.
The Pride Festival is the group’s flagship event, and this year’s event is scheduled for June 24 and will be even bigger and better than last year’s, Rippke-Koch said.
“We’ve got food trucks and entertainment lined up already,” she said. “Iowa Safe Schools is going to be there, Free Mom Hugs is going to be back.”
The Pride Fest board is also working on revamping the group’s website and setting up an online shop to sell apparel and accessories with the group’s logo. Up-to-date information on events and volunteer opportunities can be found on the group’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/fortdodgepridefestival/.