COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (KMTV) — Sunday at Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs joins the list of cities celebrating the liberation and progress of the LGBTQ community.
This celebration--put on by the advocacy group Council Bluffs Community Alliance, or CBCA--is celebrating the Stonewall riots. It happened 50 years ago, spurring the movement for gay rights.
"There has never been an anniversary involving LGBTW rights this significant, ever," CBCA president Mike Yowell said.
Yowell and the CBCA displayed a mural to commemorate the Americans who fought back when police raided the Stonewall Inn in new york city, which was a popular gay bar.
"Someone who's not LGBTQ might not understand how significant this was," Yowell said. "Think about how liberating D-Day was. That's how we feel. That was the date our freedom began."
Council Bluffs Community Alliance organizers say Sunday's turnout exceeded expectations. Dozens showed up Sunday evening as temperatures climbed closer to 100 degrees.
Even city leaders were in attendance. Mayor Matt Walsh proclaimed June as pride month in the city. City council member Nate Watson was also at the celebration. Elected in 2011, Watson is the first openly gay elected official in the metro area.
"It's nice to see people of all ages coming out and celebrating who they are and being welcomed by all people, including the mayor, as well as my straight colleagues on City Council," council member Watson said. "It's important for young people to see good role models and how they're an important part of our community."
Even a half a century later, events taking place in New York City have impacted people in western Iowa.
CBCA president Mike Yowell says he looks forward to the next 50 years.
"Besides the Stonewall celebration, we know we have to band together," he said. "We have to continue the fight. This is not over yet."
The Heartland Pride Festival that took place Saturday was held in Council Bluffs for the past five years before moving to Omaha. The CBCA saw this year as an opportunity to start a new tradition on their side of the river.