Decorah's first Pride Festival was held last May. (Photo by Julie Berg-Raymond)
Decorah's first Pride Festival was held last May. (Photo by Julie Berg-Raymond)
Local organizers are preparing for Decorah’s second Pride Festival, which is Saturday, May 11.
Pride is a celebration of people of diverse sexual and gender identities and expressions. Decorah Pride is open to all through the greater Decorah area who are part of or supporters of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer-identifying) community.
All events are free and the greater Decorah area is invited to “Join the Parade” in support of the LGBTQ community.
Last year’s Decorah Pride was the first festival of its kind in Decorah. Organizers and members of the Decorah community were encouraged by the turnout and positive response from a wide cross-section of the community.
“We’re hoping this is a celebration for the greater Decorah area,” said Amalia Vagts, event co-chair. “While there are bigger Pride festivals, smaller ones like Decorah can be a great place for the community to connect with one another. We have vendors from around the state, such as Iowa Safe Schools, who are excited to join us this year at the festival. It can be a surprise to find an event in places like Northeast Iowa and that makes these smaller-town Pride events very special. We hope folks will travel from near and far and find a warm reception in Decorah.”
“The feeling I got last year walking in the parade was incredible. Seeing so many people lining the streets to celebrate our community and seeing all the businesses displaying the Pride flag was overwhelming,” said Andrew Ellingsen, one of the event co-chairs. “It’s one of the happiest moments I’ve had living in this town – one of the moments I’ve been proudest to live here, in a town that celebrates love and welcomes everyone. I can’t wait for this year’s celebration.”
Parade: Register by May 7
The Parade kicks off at 2 p.m., starting from Mary Christopher Park and going down Water Street to the intersection with River Street. Groups and individuals can register for the parade at All groups must register by May 7. Individuals are encouraged to register in advance, but are welcome to participate regardless of registration.

‘Party in the Park’
The parade will be followed by a “Party in the Park” in the parking lot behind the Oneota Community Food Co-op. The Party in the Park begins immediately following the parade and will last until 5:30 p.m. The event will feature speeches by local members and friends of the LGBTQIA community, live music by local duo Eggen and Hippen, drag performances and Luther College acoustic group Beautiful Mess. The party also will include vendors, face-painting and aerial performers from the Discover Happy Pilates Studio. Food will be available for purchase from Salt/Water (run by local chef Justin Scardina).
Decorah sophomore Storme Barr worked on last year’s festival and again on this one. “I am extremely excited about the Pride festival this year because last year you could just feel the happiness in the air, but now I am feeling it a month before,” Barr said. “I am super excited to feel the love and excitement in the air again.”

New event: Pride Trivia Night
A new event for this year is a special Pride Trivia Night at Courtyard and Cellar, located at 421 W. Water Street, from 6 to 8 p.m. Trivia hosts are Erik Ellingsen and Toby Cain. The event is open to all ages and families are welcome. T-Bock’s Sports Bar and Grill and other local other area businesses are contributing appetizers. There is no cover charge; alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase.

Party at Pulpit Rock
Pulpit Rock Brewing Company is the site of the Pride After Party with DJ Smiley, beginning at 8 p.m. This year, Pulpit Rock will be issuing a special canned beer for Decorah Pride and offering several special taps that evening.
The committee expressed gratitude for the reception they’ve received from downtown businesses, many who displayed rainbow flags in their windows during last year’s festival.
“I’m excited for Decorah Pride 2019 not only because I’m lucky enough to be a part of the planning committee, but also because I love seeing a new energy that is brought out of the people of Decorah,” Jarret Johnson, a committee member who is part of Decorah’s downtown business community said. “It’s welcoming, and it’s warm and it makes me all the more proud to be a contributing member of this community.”

Special significance this year
This year’s festival holds particular significance as 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the New York Stonewall Riots.
The Stonewall Bar in New York was raided by police June 28, 1969. While police raids on gay and lesbian bars were common at the time, this one was notable because many people, especially transgender women and drag queens, fought back. This resistance movement led to the first Gay Pride festival the following year.
Rev. Ellis Arnold, who is United Church of Christ pastor and serves on the planning committee said, “To me, Pride is a time to own who we, as queer people, are. Our culture in many ways teaches us to hide parts of who we are in order to be safe and to not disturb the status quo. So Pride becomes a counter-culture moment to claim and celebrate that being queer is a beautiful, unique and fabulous way of being in the world. It’s an event where queer people and allies celebrate and cheer one another on in a deep and profound way. It is an act and a time for each and every person to see the beauty in their own uniqueness.”

Andrew Ellingsen and Amalia Vagts are co-chairs for the 2019 Decorah Pride planning committee. Continuing committee members (Ellingsen, Vagts, Storme Barr and Daniel Brown) began planning last summer, and the 2019 committee formally convened and began planning for this year’s festival in January.
The members of the Decorah Pride 2019 Planning Committee are Ellis Arnold, Storme Barr, Daniel Brown, Andrew Ellingsen, Jarret Johnson, Filiberto Lopez-Garcia and Amalia Vagts. The committee reflects a cross-section of the LGBTQ community and includes representation from Luther, the business community, Decorah public schools and local faith communities.
Committee member Filiberto Lopez-Garcia, president of Luther College Pride, said, “Last year I had the privilege of being a speaker at Pride and this year have the opportunity to be part of the amazing committee that makes such an iconic day happen. I can’t wait to see everyone on May 11, as we celebrate what makes us beautiful and complex individuals.”
For more information and to register for the parade at the Decorah Pride website: