DES MOINES, Iowa — Thousands will be gathering in the East Village this weekend 44th annual PrideFest. The celebration returns with a different feeling after state lawmakers passed several bills effecting the LGBTQ community.

The festival begins Friday at 5 p.m. on East Locust Street Second and Sixth Streets. There will be food, live music and entertainment, a silent disco Friday night and much more. It all culminates with annual Pride Parade Sunday.

Bartley Mullin, the communications director with Capital City Pride, the organization hosting PrideFest, said after this year’s Iowa legislative session, he feels somewhat like a second-class citizen.

“I think it’s important that LGBTQ people feel safe wherever they live,” he said. “We can’t all live in New York City or Chicago or Los Angeles, but it is very concerning with what’s going on in recent news here in Iowa and I think that the community really needs to pay attention because I image that everyone would want Iowa to be a safe and loving and welcoming space.”

Lawmakers passed several bills including one banning gender-affirming care for minors and another limiting LGBTQ discussions in the classroom.

Mullin said that’s why events like PrideFest are even more important to educate everyone about the LGBTQ community.

“It’s extremely important for us to have visibility,” he said. “Queer history is not taught in schools and so that can be easily lost. So it’s important that each generation we’re sharing our history and honoring that and PrideFest is a way for us to do that.”

Capital City Pride estimates PrideFest drew more than 40,000 people in 2022.

Mullin said he expects a similar-sized crowd this year.