The City of Cedar Rapids and the Eastern Iowa Airport (CID) will be host to the NGPA: The Worldwide LGBTQ Aviation Community (NGPA) “Wings over Iowa” fly-in event June 3-5, where they will also partner with CRPride to participate in the city’s first Pride parade.

NGPA is the largest organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender aviation professionals and enthusiasts from around the world. Since 1990, NGPA’s mission has been to Build, Support and Unite the LGBTQ aviation community worldwide. The organization provides educational opportunities, social events and outreach.

Brian Gambino, NGPA president, said the Cedar Rapids event is the first of its kind for the organization.

“We are encouraging people to fly their personal aircraft to the event to give local youth and community members a view into the world of aviation,” he says.

“It’s important for us to continue offering opportunities for our members while also being inclusive of the entire aviation community by welcoming everyone…” Gambino says.

He said choosing Cedar Rapids for NGPA’s event was due in large part to the connections the organization made with Julie Stow, associate executive director and director of meetings & conventions at Cedar Rapids Tourism.

“Julie was able to explain to us what a welcoming community Cedar Rapids is,” Gambino says. “When we toured the city and the airport, we saw firsthand how open and accepting the city is and we knew it would be a great place to expand our networking and education events.”

Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell says the work Stow and her team are doing in attracting all potential groups and tourists to the area reflects the philosophy and character of the city.

“We are so excited to welcome NGPA to Cedar Rapids,” O’Donnell says. “’Welcome’ isn’t just a word. It’s how we live our lives. I’m thrilled they will get to experience that firsthand.”

Stow says when she meets with different organizations while working to attract conventions and events, she knows if she is able to have someone come for a tour, she can get them hooked.

“I love Cedar Rapids and the people, which makes it easy for me to talk to others about our wonderful attractions, restaurants, hotels and businesses,” she says. “Once a guest comes for a visit and is able to experience it for themselves, the community sells itself.”

For the aviation portion of the NGPA Wings Over Iowa event, on Sunday, June 5, there will be a static aircraft display, as well as food vendors and other vendors to learn more about aviation. Gambino says it will have a “block party feel.”

Marty Lenss, airport director, says CID is always happy to accommodate a group focusing on aviation education.

“Aviation provides so many opportunities and there are many jobs out there in the world of aviation; anything we can do to help instill a love of flying is a boost for the industry,” Lenss says.

More details and a schedule of events will be released at a later date.

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