The midsummer festival is a proud tradition in many Iowa towns. Whether they be Sauerkraut Days, Strawberry Festivals, or Hobo Days, these celebrations bring together local communities and far-flung tourists alike to celebrate warm weather, tasty food, and good times. For a festival with one of the most unique and colorful collections of enthusiastic fans, look no further than Washington County and Riverside, the final frontier.
In the groundbreaking science fiction series Star Trek, Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise hails from an unnamed town in Iowa. After a savvy request from the Riverside City Council, Gene Roddenberry, creator of the series, agreed to establish Riverside as Captain Kirk’s official (future) birthplace.
For more than thirty years, Riverside has been celebrating her yet-to-be-born native son (his birthday is officially March 22, 2228. (Mark your calendars.) The celebration is now their annual summer festival, dubbed “TrekFest.”
This event, held on the last weekend in June every year, has many of the same activities one would expect from any other small-town festival: food tents and beer gardens, live music, a parade, a demolition derby, and fireworks, all following the Star Trek theme. Enthusiasts travel from across America and around the world to show off their vehicles, costumes, and accessories—including Federation uniforms from various entries in the Trek canon, klingons with false foreheads and full battle armor, impressive borg suits with hardware store wires and hoses, and classic guest villains like Locai and Q, all enduring the heat and humidity of the Iowa summer to show their love for this classic franchise. As a sign of sci-fi solidarity, the local Star Wars fan club often shows up to celebrate, its members marching in the parade in stormtrooper armor bearing the Star Trek United Federation of Planets insignia.
A number of former Trek cast members have made guest appearances at TrekFest, usually serving as grand marshal of the parade, helping judge the yearly costume contest, and taking questions from fans. Previous guests have included Walter Koenig (Pavel Chekov in the Original Series), Nichelle Nichols (Nyota Uhura), George Takei (Hikaru Sulu), and even William Shatner (Captain Kirk), who visited the town in 2004 to shoot the elaborate reality show hoax Invasion Iowa.
After the parade and the fireworks, enthusiasts should make sure to visit the small monument marking Kirk’s future birthplace and enjoy a drink at Murphy’s Bar and Grill, making sure to look under the pool table for the cheeky monument to Kirk’s future conception place.
This summer, make your plans to boldly go where so many Star Trek stars, costumed enthusiasts, and local families have gone before, to enjoy a classic Iowa midsummer festival in Riverside-- "where the trek begins."
Plan your visit to TrekFest today!