I first heard about Trekfest in 2012 when I stumbled upon the Riverside website.
Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek television series alluded to Iowa as being the home state of the larger-than-life James Tiberius Kirk, Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. A Riverside councilman picked up on this bit of trivia and petitioned Roddenberry to name Riverside as Kirk’s official hometown. Roddenberry granted the request, and although Riverside was not mentioned by name onscreen, it has remained the official birth town of the famed captain ever since. “I’m from Iowa. I only work in Outer Space.” – Captain James T. Kirk. The festival has enjoyed attention from Trek fans worldwide, with a few appearances from show-affiliated celebrities such as William Shatner. This year’s theme was “A Fistful of Datas:” referencing a Next Generation episode with a Wild West theme, which explained the prevalence of cowboy hats and spurs from guests in attendance (plus a few creative variations.) It was a five-hour drive from the Twin Cities, and we stayed in North Liberty–just 20 minutes drive away from the little town of Riverside. Upon entering the town, we weren’t too hopeful–it looked pretty much like you expect a rural, run-down agricultural town to look.
There weren’t too many people around, but the Riverside museum (called The Voyage Home), containing oodles of Star Trek memorabilia, was still open. The town’s model starship–guaranteed not to provoke copyright infringement–was poised on a trailer in the parking lot, along with a small shuttlecraft. We had our picture moment and enjoyed watching another fan, sporting an Admiral’s uniform from The Wrath of Khan, inspect the ship decorously. Inside the museum were glass cases full of every Star Trek trinket you could imagine: signed posters, full-size cutouts, puzzles, McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys, Christmas tree ornaments, action figures, costumes, props–even a photo album commemorating Riverside’s history (or is it their future?) intertwined with Roddenberry’s dream vision. I felt a little bad for the exhibits and artifacts presenting Riverside’s frontier history, which remain next to unnoticed in the sparkling glamour of the collectibles and knickknacks.
The merchandise was a little disappointing, but they did have acommemorative T-shirt honoring the life of Leonard Nimoy, who died in February this year. I bought a communications officer badge from the front counter (figure that’s the closest thing to my real life) and though I was tempted by the plastic Vulcan ears, I had to pass for the time being.
Everyone we met in Riverside was totally friendly and talkative, which I appreciated greatly. I don’t know how I’d feel about having a stampeding nerd herd flooding my town once a year; like Bill Shatner, I might be tempted to tell them to “get a life.” But in all seriousness, everyone involved seemed to have a fabulous time, embracing the theme wholeheartedly in their town parade and doling out barbecue, sno-cones and pies to visitors with friendly affability. We participated in a Star Trek trivia contest, but our casual affinity for the show was no match for the diehard fans. These are the Ensign and Lieutenant-level questions I was asked; (I left the Captain and Admiral levels to the real experts):
1. Name three drinks from the Star Trek universe.
2. At what age do the race Kaelon, from the Next Generation episode “Half a Life,” commit suicide?
3. What is the full name of Captain Kirk’s son?
4. What is the full name of the captain who preceded Kirk as captain of the Enterprise?
Acceptable answers included: 1. Klingon blood wine, Romulan ale, synthahol; 2. Age 60; 3. David Marcus; and 4. Captain Christopher Pike. I was only able to correctly answer the last one; I could never have answered an Admiral-level question! I’ll be sure to study up for next year. I look forward to seeing what Riverside comes up in 2016. Only 213 more years until one of Starfleet’s greatest is born!