TrekFest welcomes local and global communities

Riverside has claimed the title of future birthplace of Captain Kirk, and its celebration of the groundbreaking show brings the local and Trekkie communities together.

Dennis+Lynch+walks+in+the+parade+during+TrekFest+in+Riverside%2C+Iowa+on+June+29%2C+2019.+Riverside+is+the+fictional+birthplace+of+Captain+Kirk.+Lynch+has+been+going+to+TrekFest+for+all+35+years.+%28Katie+Goodale%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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TrekFest welcomes local and global communities

Dennis Lynch walks in the parade during TrekFest in Riverside, Iowa on June 29, 2019. Riverside is the fictional birthplace of Captain Kirk. Lynch has been going to TrekFest for all 35 years. (Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan)

Dennis Lynch walks in the parade during TrekFest in Riverside, Iowa on June 29, 2019. Riverside is the fictional birthplace of Captain Kirk. Lynch has been going to TrekFest for all 35 years. (Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan)

Katie Goodale

Dennis Lynch walks in the parade during TrekFest in Riverside, Iowa on June 29, 2019. Riverside is the fictional birthplace of Captain Kirk. Lynch has been going to TrekFest for all 35 years. (Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan)

Katie Goodale

Katie Goodale

Dennis Lynch walks in the parade during TrekFest in Riverside, Iowa on June 29, 2019. Riverside is the fictional birthplace of Captain Kirk. Lynch has been going to TrekFest for all 35 years. (Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan)

Brooklyn Draisey, Summer editor

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Traces of Star Trek can be found all throughout Riverside, Iowa.

The sign welcoming visitors to the small town, with a population of just over 1,000 people, reads “Welcome to Riverside: Where the Trek Begins.” Flags depicting different characters line the main street. Crosswalks are dotted with the Star Trek badge symbol. And tucked behind businesses downtown is a boulder with a plaque commemorating the future birth of James T. Kirk, Captain of the Starship Enterprise.

“Star Trek,” a popular science fiction television series from the 1960s that expanded into a large franchise, has become a part of Riverside’s identity over the years, Riverside resident Carolyn Hudson said. TrekFest, an annual festival that celebrates “Star Trek” and the community, showcases that identity.

When Gene Roddenberry, the creator of “Star Trek,” co-wrote a book about the making of “Star Trek,” he mentioned that Captain Kirk was born in a small town in Iowa. Steve Miller, a former Riverside city councilor, read that and saw an opportunity. Miller proclaimed Riverside to be Kirk’s future birthplace and reached out to Roddenberry, who made it official.

This year brought the 35th-annual festival, with people coming from far and wide to celebrate the show that made science-fiction mainstream. Riverside residents were also out in full force, watching the parade as children scrambled for candy thrown from tractors of neighboring towns and floats filled with people in costume.

“It’s kind of like our Black Friday,” said Voyage Home Museum volunteer and Riverside resident Mike Meinders. “It brings people here.”

Katie Goodale
A sign and chairs sit outside the StarTrek museum during TrekFest in Riverside, Iowa on June 29, 2019. Riverside is the fictional birthplace of Captain Kirk. Riverside, Iowa has been having the festival for 35 years and is officially licensed as the Kirk’s birthplace. (Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan)

The Voyage Home Museum features both the history of Riverside and a gallery of “Star Trek” memorabilia. The gallery holds costumes from the show, a desk prop used by Data in “Star Trek: the Next Generation” and Voyager, a light-up transporter, and an interactive bridge made by Meinders.

Near the museum’s exit are two maps, of both the U.S. and the world. Pins are provided for visitors to show where they came from. Pins are stuck in every state and almost every continent.

Sandra Gimpel, who played a Talosian in the unaired pilot and the Salt Vampire in another episode, was at her first TrekFest. But not her first “Star Trek” celebration. Gimpel said one of the most amazing parts of the celebrations is listening to people’s stories about what a large part “Star Trek” has played in their lives.

Katie Goodale
Owner of the Star Trek museum Mike Meinders stands behind the check-out during TrekFest in Riverside, Iowa on June 29, 2019. Riverside is the fictional birthplace of Captain Kirk. Riverside, Iowa has been having the festival for 35 years and is officially licensed as the Kirk’s birthplace. (Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan)

“It influenced their lives to such an extent, it’s crazy … I didn’t realize TV had such an influence on our lives,” Gimpel said.

Hudson didn’t come from very far away; she lived in Iowa City. When she decided to find a house to settle in, Riverside was her first choice. Growing up, “Star Trek” was a large part of her childhood, and she said she loves seeing how the story continues today.

2019 marks 50 years since the final episode of the original “Star Trek” series, but the story is far from done, Hudson said. “Star Trek” is seeing a resurgence on television, with “Star Trek: Discovery” having two seasons out and a new series centered on Captain Picard.

“ ‘Star Trek’ isn’t dying,” she said. “It will continue to break boundaries.”

Cedar Rapids resident Dennis Lynch has come to every TrekFest since the beginning in 1984. He said events like this one are very positive for both the Riverside and “Star Trek” communities, which is why Mindbridge, an Iowa City nonprofit that provides a resource group for people interested in science fiction and fantasy, which he is a part of, gave $5,000 to the festival in 2011 to help save it.

“With all the chaos and politics and problems in the world, “Star Trek” reflects a positive future,” he said. “It reflects the idea that humans can work together to solve problems. If the Klingons and the federation can come to [peace], so can we.”