WATERLOO — Entertainers with lots of national exposure are one of the most unique qualities of this year’s Cedar Valley Pride Fest, happening tonight and tomorrow in downtown Waterloo.
Ada Vox, The Dragon Sisters and Alisabeth Von Presley are among 20 performers to be featured in the 11th annual recognition of LGBTQ+ pride for the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area. The weekend also includes numerous regional musicians and drag stars, yoga sessions, speakers’ panels, a kids’ zone and a record number of vendors showcasing their wares and services.
Cedar Valley Pride Fest will also honor the late Ruby James Knight, aka Jim Raymond, a pioneering Iowa drag queen who passed away in May. Ruby James Knight performed at Cedar Valley Pride Fest for more than a dozen years. She’ll be honored during a performance Saturday evening.
The full weekend celebration begins tonight at 5 p.m., continues through midnight, then picks up again from noon to midnight Saturday. Festivities are in downtown Waterloo at the intersection of 300 E. 4th Street.
Many of the performers to be featured at Cedar Valley Pride Fest are nationally known.
Vox, for example, has appeared on RuPaul’s Queen of the Universe, and twice on American Idol — as both their drag persona and their everyday name, Adam Sanders. Vox also auditioned for America’s Got Talent this past spring and has auditioned for that show at least six times. She’ll perform in drag at 8:15 p.m. Saturday
The Dragon Sisters, featuring longtime friends Issa Perez and Cain Coleman, have been melding hip-hop and drag since 2019 in New York City’s club scene, says Vogue Magazine. Originally from North Caroline, the duo is known for their acrobatic and erotic dance and meld of originals and covers will perform at 9 and 11:15 p.m. Saturday
Von Presley has become a Pride mainstay all throughout Iowa and Illinois, appearing at dozens of Pride festivals large and small over the past five years. Presley also appeared on “America’s Song Contest” on NBC in 2022 and has auditioned for American Idol. She’ll take the stage at 6 p.m. Saturday
Other performers include:
— Allegra Hernandez, a nonbinary rock artist from Des Moines who also performed earlier this year at Iowa City Pride. They’ll perform at 6 p.m. Friday.
— the Boy Band Review, a trio out of Chicago that performs covers of big hits by former boy bands NSync, BackStreet Boys and 98 Degrees. They’re on at 9 and 10:45 p.m. Friday.
— Whit & Erica, a married duo from Cedar Falls that performs acoustic folk and blues, including gospel. They’re the first band to perform Saturday, at 3:45 p.m.
— Leslie and the Lys, a comedy show led by longtime Ames-based comedian Leslie Hall. The Lys start the laughs at 6:30 p.m. Saturday
— and a collection of local performers known as the Us Collective will jam at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Regional drag stars will perform all through the festival, in between musical acts. Throughout the weekend, more than 100 vendors will showcase their wares and services. It’s the largest number of vendors in the festival’s 11-year history.
And for those who need to be out of the heat or are looking for more than entertainment, speakers will offer sessions in the Waterloo Convention Center all afternoon, covering topics that include Iowa’s anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, homosexuality and the Bible, being an ally, and a sitdown with transgender filmmaker Carrsan T. Morrissey.
A kids’ zone will offer face-painting and drag storytime throughout the festival. Yoga and hula sessions will be offered Saturday. Also, arts events of all kinds are happening, including the Cedar Valley Pridefest Art Exhibit at the Hawkeye Community College Van G. Miller Adult Learning Center from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, and a collaborative watercolor project, chalk the walk project, and more.
Admission to the two-day event is $20 at the gate, or $15 if purchased ahead of time online, here. For more information see the Cedar Valley Pride website, or the Cedar Valley Pride Fest Facebook page.
Cover features (clockwise from top) Boy Band Review, The Dragon Sisters, Alisabeth Von Presley, Ada Vox and Allegra Hernandez.)