How an off-handed comment from a movie and an eternal dreamer changed an Iowa town forever.
In his book “The making of Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry mentions that Captain James T. Kirk was born in Iowa. City Councilman for the city of Riverside, Iowa (population 1,000) Steve Miller was pleased to read this. When the movie ” Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” came out it made mention of Kirk’s birthplace.. There is a scene with co-star Catherine Hicks where she asks Kirk ” Are you from outer space?” and Kirk says “No, I’m from Iowa.” When Steve Miller heard the line he was struck with a brilliant idea, why not make Riverside the official future birthplace of Captain Kirk. So Steve Miller wrote Gene Roddenberry and asked his permission and blessing in making Riverside Kirk’s birthplace. Roddenberry agreed and Miller took it before the council. They agreed and switched the town’s slogan from “Where the West begins” to “Where the Trek begins” They also changed the name of their annual summer celebration from River Fest to Trek Fest.
Admittedly it was a gamble, but once the word got out, fans were receptive and the Trek fest has grown into a huge fan get together. Many “Star Trek” cast members have come by and the city coffers grew as people began to travel from throughout the midwest to see the city.
The actual birth location for Captain Kirk is behind the hair salon (which Steve Miller, the guy who came up with the idea owned) There is a marker a nice mural, a bench, and a donation box. It is free to visit but donations for the upkeep are appreciated.
The city also has a Star Trek Museum, When it opened in 1986 the museum only had a couple photos, but has grown dramatically over the years as fans and even cast members from the various incarnations generously donating memorabilia to add to the collection.
The connection to Star Trek has been a real boon to the once-struggling town. The town also was recognized in the latest “Star Trek” reboot so now it’s more or less official.
I have to admit, I think what the city did was amazing. Not just because I am a fan of the show, but because this all came from taking the initiative. Any city in Iowa could have done this, but Riverside got the nod because one man dared to dream and took a chance. I think James Kirk will be proud of his hometown. In about 200 years.