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Making the Trek to Riverside’s annual gathering

BY CHRIS CURTLAND | JUNE 29, 2009 7:21 AM

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Roughly 15,000 voyagers descended upon Trek Fest this past weekend, journeying from around the planet — perhaps to explore the strange, new world of Riverside and to seek out the unprecedented life forms and civilizations there, just south of Iowa City.

And some those voyagers — from far and wide — didn’t slack on the wardrobe.

“About a week ago, we got our first Alaskan, but there’s been no one from Montana or Wyoming,” said Wendee McCreken, angling her eyebrows and glaring slightly. “Those people aren’t very spacey people.”

For 25 years, Riverside has been organizing Trek Fest, a celebration of its designation as future birthplace of James Tiberius Kirk, captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise and hot-headed hero of the Star Trek franchise.

Many in attendance were indeed “spacey people,” and that’s why 24-year-old Iowa City resident Andrew Busse ducked behind a small barbershop to see the plaque marking Captain Kirk’s actual place of birth.

“These are the Trekkies who are so into the movie they pretend to be a part of it,” he said.

Drawing more than 10,000, Trek Fest is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the community of 928.

The event featured a parade and float contest, a costume competition, and a Q&A session with original cast members Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, and George Takei at the Riverside Casino.

For McCreken, a Riverside Area Community Club member, excitement began to build two days before the new Star Trek’s April 6 theatrical release — when she boldly went where no one had gone before.

She saw the never-before-seen movie with a complementary ticket from Paramount Pictures. The Riverside Area Community Club received 200 tickets to disperse among “Riversidians.”

At the June 27 event, McCreken took first prize for Best Trekkie float by turning an everyday sedan into a Horta — a sentient rock-like creature from an original episode, she said.

Over the years, McCreken has constructed floats of the “beam-me-up” transporter, the Guardian time portal, and the Enterprise’s flight deck complete with a captain’s chair and control panel.
She even attached twin pylons to the back of her dad’s minivan to make it more Enterprise-esque, but her road to victory wasn’t all fun and games. The 2,700-pound U.S.S. Riverside (an Enterprise replica) recently toppled off its base, and her son’s Klingon war-bird lost a wing but still won for Best Theme, she said.

For her, Trek Fest is also a family affair. Husband Paul McCreken said he’s been running the costume contest for 20 years. This weekend he was especially impressed with Gary Barclay’s Spock, which won for best federation character. Barclay showed off pointy ears, prominent eyebrows, and a Starfleet uniform.

“That guy was good — he even had that little Vulcan sword, staff thing, whatever you call it,” he said.
When Trek Fest ends, the town’s “Voyage Home” museum goes back to being a quiet, tucked-away science-fiction mecca, drawing around a dozen guests a day. Its attendants are left to ponder about next year’s glory.

As for now, there is slight “speculation”— but “high hopes” — for getting Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock.

“We’re just talking,” Wendee McCreken said.

As for the original Kirk — Riverside’s “favorite unborn son” — the frontier is a bit more bleak.

“Shatner’s asking for $100,000, and he’s just not going to get it,” she said.

DI photographers Patrick Larkin and Joe Scott contributed to this article.


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