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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
July 5, 2002

Bright, sunny day warms
up Columbus Pride

by Eric Resnick

Columbus--The largest gay Pride parade and festival in Ohio drew thousands of people to downtown Columbus in the sweltering heat and high humidity on June 29.

The 21st annual Pride Holiday celebration is the centerpiece of nearly a week of Pride events sponsored by Stonewall Columbus. They commemorate the June 28, 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York, considered the beginning of the U.S. gay and lesbian civil rights movement.

Stonewall president Rob Berger hopes the events will cover an entire month next year.

A reporter at High and Gay Streets counted 4,230 paraders on foot, on floats, and in vehicles. These joined thousands more at Bicentennial Park. Organizers estimated that crowd at 45,000, but no official count was made.

The most profound difference between this year’s parade and previous ones was the increased number of city police posted near the Ohio Statehouse at Broad and High Streets. to keep paraders and protesters separated.

The increased police protection stems from actions by anti-gay street preacher Charles Spingola of Newark. Spingola has protested every Columbus Pride event since 1991, but in recent years his protests have become louder, involving more people.

In 2000, Spingola climbed the Statehouse flagpole and tore down a rainbow flag. He served five days in jail. Last year, Spingola lit a fuel-soaked rainbow flag and was tried on assault charges. Found not guilty, Spingola has filed a defamation lawsuit against former Pride security head Andrea Critchet.

Berger said Stonewall met with police early to discuss ways to prevent violence or anything that might endanger the crowd.

"Our plan was to have active police presence to guarantee no repeat of last year," said Berger.

Prior to the parade, police threatened arrest of anyone that stepped off either curb onto High Street.

"This isn’t the old parades of the ’50s," said Sgt. Jeffrey Barnes, "We have increased security due to the conflict between these two groups."

Spingola’s group included about 25 people this year, including children under the age of ten, who identified themselves as living as far away as Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Pennsylvania.

Nearly 100 counter protesters representing gay-affirming churches and family organizations assembled on the other side of the street. Many of them had come from the ecumenical worship service held earlier that morning at the Trinity Episcopal Church.

Unlike earlier years with less police presence, interactions between the factions before and during the parade were fairly subdued, giving the feeling that it was more like a sport for both sides.

"Hurry up and get this parade moving. We have others to condemn too!" shouted Spingola associate Ruben Israel of Los Angeles, adding levity to both sides.

But following the parade, police watched as people challenged Spingola’s followers face-to-face for half an hour.

The parade drew elected officials and candidates including Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer Brunner, County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy, and Court of Appeals Judge Gary Tyack.

The main stage at Bicentennial Park was emceed by WCMH Channel 4 anchor Tyler Bacome. Performers included the Columbus Stompers, singer Andy Kuncl, the Dyke Queens and the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus.

Martha Wash, the iconic singer of the classic gay anthem "It’s Raining Men" lit up the main stage as the middle section of the park cleared out, crowding the stage to the point where security had to hold fans back.

Referring to the gay dance classic she recorded with Izora Rhodes as the Weather Girls and the heat, Wash said, "All of you who brought those umbrellas--you know damn well you aren’t going to need them."

Wash said she performs at many Pride festivals and always enjoys them. She said she doesn’t know the point at which she became such an object of adoration of so many gay men, but she is flattered by it.

"Maybe it goes back to performing with Sylvester," she said, pointing out that she and Rhodes were backup singers to the gay disco singer.

Later, Wash and Rhodes formed the band Two Tons O’ Fun, which became the Weather Girls in the 1980s.

Was said she and Rhodes had no idea that "It’s Raining Men" would become such a staple of gay dance favorites.

"I think Paul [Jabara, who co-wrote the song with Paul Schaffer, now David Letterman’s bandleader] thought it might," said Wash, "but we didn’t."

Wash, who resides in New York, added, "the gay men have given me a continuous following and I’m happy about that. You have kept me out there."

The extreme heat and intense sun did not deter people from dancing while Wash performed, and gave an incentive for people to shed clothing, satisfying those who like to look at skin and eye candy.

For the second year, a special place where families could enjoy Pride together was created.

Family Area organizer Amy Vaile said nearly 40 families used the area to get out of the rush of the larger festival and enjoy the snacks, activities, and shade.

"This is not a drop-off center," said Vaile, "It is a place where families can enjoy the festival together.

It also says that we value our families."

Following Wash’s performance, 36 couples took the stage to participate in the commitment ceremony that has also become an annual part of Columbus Pride.

"This is always an emotional event for me," said Berger, adding that he hoped the event energized people into action.

"Everyone has the duty to do something for the community," said Berger.

"We came here to party today, but tomorrow we need to figure out what we want to do."

"I challenge everyone who came here today to call Governor Taft Monday morning and tell him you want civil rights in this state," said Berger. "Imagine the impact that would have."


New Girls defeat Hygienes,
and the heat, in Bat ’n’ Rouge

by Milla Rosenberg

Columbus-The 15th annual Bat ’n’ Rouge charity softball game drew around 2,700 people Sunday afternoon to the Africentric School at the corner of Grant and Livingston avenues to watch members of the Columbus Softball Association play in drag.

In the seven-inning contest, the New Girls defeated the Hygienes by a score of 17 to 3.

Emceed by comedienne Maggie Cassella, the game was marked by high camp and saucy behavior. When Columbus council member Mary Ellen O’Shaughnessy went to throw out the first pitch, Cassella helped her, explaining, "If she’s straight, she won’t know how to throw."

Sable Coate sang the national anthem.

Jim Brey ("Daisy Bottom"), manager of the Hygienes, explained that the team came up with a theme. Several of the players represented "oppressed" women of the world: a Japanese geisha, a nun, and Ms. Gay Afghanistan, who sported a rainbow burqua.

"A lot of us are players with the league," Brey said. "A couple of years ago, some of the guys were asked to play."

On the opposing team, the New Girls, players included Flo from the show Alice, Hedwig, who socked a home run in the first inning, and Columbus news anchor "Andrea Camburn," sporting a rather short skirt.

The annual game is a fundraiser for the Columbus Softball Association and four charities: the Columbus AIDS Task Force; BRAVO, the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization; Kaleidoscope Youth Coalition and Stonewall Columbus.

"The turnout today is so great to see," Curtis Davis, the organizer, said.

Members of the Crystal Club transgender support group, Mary Ann Horton and Jess Stevens, served as umpires.

Meteorologists Marshall McPeek and Chuck Gurney were on hand to lend their support on this sweltering day. The players were sensitive to complaints about the weather.

"I can feel your pain, honey," said outfielder Terry Bruce, who was looking lovely in a pink prom dress. "The heat is a killer."

During the fourth-inning stretch, the Columbus Flaggots performed their flag corps routine to rousing cheers. Coordinator Matt Eisert said that the new group has received a lot of praise.

"We marched yesterday in the Pride parade, and the crowd response was excellent," he said.

Eisert and Scott Markham flew to the Philadelphia Pride festival on June 9, where they practiced with the Philadelphia chapter of the group, which began in New York.

"We learned their moves, and we brought it back here," Eisert explained.

Vendors pitched rainbow wares and concessions throughout the event.

Why the New Girls had such an edge is an interesting question. Hedwig was certainly a power hitter; perhaps the answer lies in the New Girls’ inclusion of "Stone Cold Steve Austin," a drag king replete with handlebar mustache.

Spectators found it heartening to see drag queens and drag kings standing together for such a good cause.

Bruce said that the Columbus Softball Association is open to all people.

"We are open to all kinds of folks: gays, lesbians, even straight people," he said.

 


 

 

Pride spreads across the country,
and the globe

by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports

San Francisco--Clad in a long white coat and waving the British flag, actor Sir Ian McKellen leaped from a silver convertible and raced to hug cheering fans during the city’s annual Gay Pride parade.

Thousands of rainbows appeared under the blue sky June 30 as an estimated half million people lined the streets to celebrate diversity and progress.

San Francisco, however, was far from the only city outside of Ohio to celebrate Gay Pride. Marches in Chicago, Detroit, New York, Toronto, Tel Aviv and across Europe held parades and festivals during Gay Pride Month, commemorating the Stonewall Riots.

Internationally, Croatia saw its first gay pride parade, drawing around 200 people, including a number of members of parliament and the country’s interior minister, Sime Lucin.

"Love each other and fight for your rights," Lucin told the marchers, according to the BBC.

In Tel Aviv, Israel, a crowd of 40,000 people, guarded by 500 policemen and soldiers, braved the risk of violence in the strife-ridden country on June 28 to watch the parade and take part in a huge festival afterwards.

Yosef Lapid, a member of the Israeli parliament, told the assemblage that gay rights were an integral part of ensuring Israel’s freedom.

Half a million people thronged the streets of Paris for their pride parade on June 29, while 150,000 assembled in Madrid, Spain. Austrians celebrated the striking of an anti-gay age of consent law with a march of 100,000, while in Switzerland, 4,000 marched in Zurich. Britain will have its march in London on July 6.

On this side of the Atlantic, Toronto had two parades, a Dyke March on June 29 and the coed Pride March on June 30. Present in the parade on Sunday were two couples married at an Ontario Metropolitan Community Church under what the congregation views as a loophole in the common-law marriage statutes, as well as Marc Hall, the teen whose Catholic high school was forced by an Ontario court to allow him to bring his boyfriend to the prom.

Chicago had its 33rd annual parade, closing out Mayor Richard Daley’s designated Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, while in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg marched near the front of Gotham’s parade.

In Lansing, the capital of Michigan, a reported 12,000 people marched to the capitol building for a rally demanding gay rights, then headed out for a day-long festival on June 15. The Detroit suburb of Ferndale played host to 15,000 people earlier in the month at Motor City Pride.

June 30 brought a reported 100,000 people out to watch the 29th annual Seattle Pride parade and festival, while almost four times as many people turned out to watch the Chicago parade, held the same day.

 

 


Adoption bureaus seek
gay and lesbian parents-to-be

by Eric Resnick

University Heights, Ohio-The largest private children’s services agency in Ohio hopes gays and lesbians will become adoptive and foster parents.

The board of Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau made into official policy last winter what employees say they were "quietly" doing all along: recruiting gays and lesbians as parents.

Within the past six months, staff at the suburban Cleveland agency has pitched parenting to gay and lesbian organizations including Black Out Unlimited, Asians and Friends Cleveland, the Cleveland Lesbian and Gay Center, and affirming LGBT religious congregations.

The agency consistently ranks among Ohio’s top three in terms of adoptions. Bellefaire serves all of Ohio and also does home studies for international adoptions.

"We need homes for kids," said Carmela McMullen, the agency’s director of recruitment, licensing, and training.

McMullen said that the board began to debate whether or not it would enact as policy the recruiting of gay and lesbian parents about two years ago.

"The board did its research," said McMullen, "and found no studies indicating that gay and lesbian parents were not good. But as an agency, we have been working with gay families all along. The board’s decision just gave us the chance to do staff development around the issues and put resources into recruiting."

"Each family is assessed individually," said McMullen. "But in the case of gay families, we recognize that the support system can be made of friends and families of choice."

"Stability is the key criteria for all placements," she added. "Is there commitment to the child and can the family provide . . . structure?"

In Ohio, only one partner in same-sex households can be legally recognized as the child’s parent. McMullen said Bellefaire does not decide which partner that should be, but counsels the couple along the way and may make suggestions.

"We tell them that, for example, if one of the partners has the better job and health care benefits, the court may look more favorably on that partner being the adoptive parent," said McMullen.

McMullen said that in Cuyahoga County, the magistrate that approves adoptions follows the law and considers what is best for the child without regard to the sexual orientation of the parents, though she knows that is not the case in all of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Bellefaire’s director of adoption, Beth Brinda, said, "Our approach is to never set a family up to be hurt. We do our homework and talk to social workers and magistrates on the front end."

Brinda said Bellefaire has not yet encountered a judge or agency that has expressed disdain or refused to accept parents due to sexual orientation.

"I hope we develop a reputation of being a safe place," said Brinda, "and that prospective parents will disclose that they are gay or lesbian."

According to McMullen, there are factors that have discouraged gay families from becoming foster parents, which she also hopes to change. Seventy five percent of foster families adopt the children.

McMullen said that same-sex couples who foster may be less willing to disclose the true nature of their relationship because there is always a case manager in their home.

"But an advantage to fostering is that both partners can be listed as parents on the home’s license," said McMullen.

McMullen and Brinda agree that actively recruiting gay parents will be a positive for children who are gay or questioning their sexual orientation.

"As we work more overtly with gay families, it has to help normalize our relationship to gay and questioning kids," said Brinda. "We know this is a population of youth that is underserved, and our knowledge of gay households can be a real positive piece."

McMullen admits that the agency is "not as competent" with the issue of transgender parents. "If a transgender person wanted to adopt, we would follow the same process used with everyone else."

There is no cost to adopting children in the system; there may be a fee to adopt infants, though it may be able to be waived.

Foster parents receive a monthly stipend for the child’s care, and additional subsidies are paid by the state for children with special needs.

Those interested in Bellefaire JCB’s services should contact Carmela McMullen at 216-932-2800.

Bellefaire is not the only LGBT-friendly adoption service in Ohio. A Child’s Waiting Adoption Program, which also operates statewide but is based in Akron, put on an adoption forum at Stonewall Columbus earlier this year. They can be reached at 330-665-1811, or toll-free at 866-937-2367 (866-YES-ADOPT). They have a web site at www.achildswaiting.com.

Northeast Ohio Adoption Services, with offices in Warren and Cleveland, also serves LGBT people interested in adoption. They can be reached at 216-581-9710 at their Cleveland office, or 330-856-5582 at their Warren office. They also have a web site at www.noas.com.


Victory over South Bend puts Fusion into playoffs

by Anthony Glassman

Cleveland--Clinching a wild-card playoff spot in the National Women’s Football League finals, the Cleveland Fusion ended their regular season play with a 20-0 victory against the South Bend Golden Hawks on June 29. The game was also cablecast.

The Fusion, Cleveland’s entry in the professional NWFL, finished the season undefeated on their home turf of Bedford Stadium. Their only defeats during the season were at the hands of the sophomore Detroit Danger, an impressive feat for the new team. Even more notable was the Fusion’s Week 4 defeat of the more experienced Danger when the Detroit team traveled east, losing their home field advantage. The Fusion smashed them, 14-3.

The Fusion will play the Baltimore Burn in Maryland on July 6 in the playoffs.

 


News Briefs

Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.

J.R. Warren’s family is suing his killers

Grant Town, W. Va.--The family of a gay black man who was beaten, then crushed to death under a car nearly two years ago is suing his teenage killers for wrongful death.

Brenda and Arthur Warren, the parents of Arthur "J.R." Warren, filed the case in Marion County Circuit Court on June 27, a week before the second anniversary of their son’s death. The statute of limitations for a civil lawsuit is two years.

Last summer, Jared Matthew Wilson and David Allen Parker confessed to hitting, kicking and stomping Warren on July 4, 2000. They admitted running over him while he was still conscious in a failed attempt to disguise the beating as a hit-and-run.

Authorities said Parker, of Grant Town, initiated the attack in a drug- and alcohol-fueled rage brought on by his belief that Warren had told others of a long-standing sexual relationship the two had shared.

That aspect of the case drew the attention of national gay civil rights groups, which called the killing a hate crime even though it did not qualify as one under state law. A federal investigation remains open.

Wilson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and got 20 years in prison. Parker pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and got life in prison with mercy, making him eligible for parole in 15 years.

City may recognize marriage

New York City--Patricia Gaitling, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s human rights commissioner, gave a boost to a city council proposal to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states on June 25.

The proposal, put forward by city council speaker Gifford Miller and co-sponsored by 14 council members, is "simply the right thing to do," the New York Post quoted Gaitling saying after the meeting.

No states currently allow gay marriage, but the proposal carries as much symbolic weight as it would legal weight were gay marriages approved.

Knife found in Riverside slaying

Riverside, Calif.--Police on June 24 found a knife they believe to be the one used in the stabbing murder of Jeffery Owens outside the Menagerie bar on June 5.

Owens and his friend Michael Bussee were attacked by a group of men with shaved heads. Both men were stabbed; Owens died in hospital later.

Five men were charged in the attack, and hate crime enhancements have been added due to anti-gay epithets used during the attack.

Wendy Christina Plasier, a bartender at Sandy’s Pub next door to the Menagerie, was charged with harboring felons in the case.

All six are due back in court on July 18 after having entered pleas of not guilty.

TGs win Toys R Us suit: one dollar

New York City--A jury on June 27 found that three transsexuals who sued Toys R Us were harassed by workers while shopping at a Brooklyn store but don’t deserve $900,000 in damages.

Plaintiff attorney Tom Shanahan called the verdict in federal court--in which the jury agreed that the Toys R Us employees violated city civil rights codes--"a moral victory for the transsexual community."

But one of Shanahan’s clients, Donna McGrath, said she was disappointed with jurors’ decision to award each plaintiff only $1.

McGrath, Tanya Jinks and Tara Lopez had each sought $300,000 in damages in what Shanahan described as a landmark lawsuit combining issues of sexual identity, civil rights and corporate responsibility.

The plaintiffs claimed that during two shopping excursions at a Toys R Us store in December 2000, employees called them names and menaced them with baseball bats. They accused the company of ignoring its own anti-discrimination policies by not disciplining any workers.

At trial, Toys R Us attorney Nicholas Goodman accused the plaintiffs of distorting the facts. He insisted there were no threats of violence.

Gay couple is expecting quads

Lexington, Ky.--Two men who enlisted the help of a surrogate mother are expecting to become the parents of four in August.

A 23-year-old woman agreed to help Thomas Dysarz and Michael Meehan have a child through in-vitro fertilization. She became pregnant in January with quadruplets.

The couple said they want to keep her identity secret, fearing that stress from publicity might hurt her, the quadruplets or her three children.

Growing Generations, a California company that works with gays and surrogate mothers, says there have been triplet births among the company’s 200 clients, but no quadruplets.

It’s rare for quadruplets to be born to surrogates, said Shirley Zager, director of the Illinois-based Organization of Parents through Surrogacy. To her knowledge, Zager said, no other quadruplets have been born to a surrogate and a gay man through in-vitro.

Quadruplets are uncommon under any circumstances. In Kentucky, 18 sets have been born since 1975, state records show.

Meehan and Dysarz said the surrogate mother has told them she doesn’t want to be involved in raising the children. But the men said they will always let her know how the babies are doing.

Ashcroft assailed for Pride event

Washington, D.C.--Two conservative groups assailed Attorney General John Ashcroft on June 20 for allowing his top deputy to speak to a group of gay, lesbian and bisexual Justice Department employees.

Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson spoke briefly at a Pride event June 19 night in the department’s Great Hall, where most formal events are held. The group, named DOJ Pride, gave awards to career employees who have contributed to fair treatment for gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Also honored was a Washington police officer who works with gays and lesbians.

Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America, said her organization felt betrayed after fighting vigorously for Ashcroft’s confirmation.

Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute, also challenged the administration for allowing the celebration.

Some members of the gay, lesbian and bisexual group were also dissatisfied with Thompson’ s appearance.

DOJ Pride board member Mark Hegedus said the group was divided between happiness that the administration allowed a representative to speak, and disappointment that Thompson didn’t focus on gay and lesbian issues.

"He could have given that speech to a bunch of tourists, " Hegedus said.

New trial ordered in outing suicide

Philadelphia--A federal judge has ordered a new trial in a suit accusing police of violating the privacy rights of an 18-year-old who killed himself after officers allegedly threatened to tell his family he was gay.

A jury in November cleared three police officers in a civil lawsuit filed by the boy’s family.

U.S. District Judge Arnold C. Rapoport of the Eastern District in Allentown granted the motion for a new trial last week. A copy of his memorandum was not immediately available.

Marcus Wayman, a football player in Minersville, Pa., committed suicide in 1997 shortly after an incident during which officers allegedly threatened to tell his grandfather he was gay.

Wayman’s mother, Madonna Sterling, filed a civil suit over his death, charging that the town and three officers--Scott Willinsky, his father Police Chief Joseph Willinsky, and Thomas Hoban--violated his right to privacy.

In April 1997, officers approached Wayman and a 17-year-old friend in a car near a beer distributor. Scott Willinksy and Hoban took them to the station on underage drinking charges.

Scott Willinsky later testified that the boys said they stopped to have sex. Willinsky allegedly asked if they were "queer" and threatened to tell their families they were gay.

Wayman told his friend he was going to kill himself. A few hours later he unlocked a gun cabinet in his home and shot himself in the head, according to court testimony.

30 years since UCC’s gay ordination

Seattle--The United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns celebrated the 30th anniversary of the denomination’s first ordination of an openly gay man on June 25 at their national gathering.

The gathering, which ran from June 24 to 27, was held at Seattle University.

In 1972, William R. Johnson sought ordination in the United Church of Christ. Forming the Coalition to advocate on behalf of LGBT people, Johnson battled through hearings and questions from the delegates of the UCC General Synod.

On June 25, 1972, the 96 delegates voted 62-34 to ordain Johnson, opening the door to ministry for gay people in the United Church of Christ. Thirteen years later, the denomination voted to be open and affirming, and in 2000, it established the William R. Johnson Scholarship Fund for LGBT seminarians, which has received over $100,000 in pledges and gifts.

Johnson is currently a minister for HIV and AIDS concerns with the Wider Church Ministries at the denomination’s Cleveland headquarters.

 


Not your mothyr’s music festival

A new generation has made the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival their own

by Holly Pruett

I told a new acquaintance that I was planning to attend a women’s music festival this summer.

"You mean Lilith Fair?" she asked. "I thought they’d gone out of business."

No, I explained. I’m headed to the grandmother of all women’s music festivals: the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

"Oh, you mean women’s music, like from the ’70s? That crunchy-granola-Birkenstock stuff?"

As if! For every pair of Birkenstocks at today’s Michigan festival, there’s a campground full of Doc Martens, platforms, motorcycle boots, and stilettos. Stilettos? In the woods? Welcome to the 21st-century women’s music festival, where the music is as diverse as the women who attend.

Each August, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival attracts over 6,000 women of all ages, colors, shapes and attitudes to the woods of northern Michigan. This year’s performance line-up demonstrates that women’s music defies categorization. It includes soul, rhythm and blues, punk, world beat, bluegrass, jazz, gospel, rap, and pop. The range of artistic expression includes comedy, circus arts, dance, spoken word, and performance art.

The weeklong extravaganza, August 13 to 18 this year, kicks off with two days of intensive workshops. Highlights include presentations by the ACLU on civil liberties and the rights of teenagers, Making Art: From Trash to Treasure, and the creation of biodiesel fuel, which will be used to power a festival vehicle.

The Big O Project will create roving installations chronicling women’s relationship to orgasm. Other offerings run the gamut from health and wellness to arts and culture to spirituality and relationships. Perennial favorites include a weeklong series of dance lessons, gospel choir practice, and drumming workshops.

The intimate Acoustic Stage opens on Tuesday evening with nationally acclaimed slam poetry champ Alix Olson, back for her second Michigan appearance. The Dance Brigade, long a festival favorite, will perform an interpretation of "Cave Women" that speaks directly to the global experience following September 11.

The festival kicks into high gear on Wednesday night with the opening celebration on the Night Stage. Headlined by comedian Elvira Kurt and punk rockers the Butchies, this will settle any lingering doubts about the appeal of the festival to audiences from seventeen to seventy.

"When we started the festival twenty-seven years ago, we had no idea we would still be at it in the year 2002," says festival producer Lisa Vogel. "But the need for a community-based event like Michigan hasn’t lessened over time. A whole new generation of artists and attendees have adopted the festival and made it their own."

The Butchies, Le Tigre, gender-bending rap-punk performers Bitch and Animal, and Canada’s hip-hop troubadour Kinnie Starr are among the artists on today’s cutting edge who count this pilgrimage to the Michigan woods among their touring highlights.

Vogel mixes their sets up with longtime festie favorites Holly Near, Toshi Reagon, and Mary Watkins. Every year brings new artists to the festival, up-and-coming acts as well as performers with well-established careers whose fans look forward to seeing them at Michigan.

This year the Acoustic Stage will debut a new performance format: the Singer Songwriter Spotlight, featuring six solo sets in a wide range of vocal styles.

"We anticipate this showcase of new talent will be very popular," says Vogel, who expects the format to become part of the annual program.

The ferns surrounding the picturesque Acoustic Stage will be rocking to the riveting percussion of Edwina Lee Tyler and the reggae roots of JUCA. The wildly popular circus arts and dance troupe Lava returns to perform "Glimmer," which just premièred in New York City.

New to Michigan is the French cabaret act The Hobo Kings, whose combination of physical comedy, musical vignettes, and drag artistry is expected to blow the audience away. The Ann Arbor eco-feminist dance company Hundredth Monkey performs "Animal Lovers’ Project," an exploration of the effect animals have on the planet.

High-energy musical action takes place Thursday through Saturday at the Day Stage. The Be Good Tanyas, described as "the Canadian feminist answer to Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" combine heartfelt vocals with guitar, mandolin, violin and banjo. Ibu Ayan’s Afro-Brazilian blend, the multi-cultural spice of Páprika, and the Australian pop rock of The Bluehouse represent music from around the world. Popular singer songwriter Kris Delmhorst makes her first solo appearance on the Day Stage. And Alexis Suter, who nearly stole the show last year with her sexy bass-alto vocal stylings, will return with her own disco/ gospel mix.

Then there is the Night Stage. As the sun sets fire to the tree-fringed horizon and the northern sky fills with stars, women spanning eight decades gather in this unmatched performance venue. Created by sound and light technicians, carpenters, electricians, stage managers, and hundreds of other women from around the world working for weeks in advance, the Night Stage epitomizes the wide range of female talent and ability that defines the Michigan festival.

Country folk star Cheryl Wheeler, introspective pop artist Patty Larkin, and Laura Love’s Afro-Celtic fusion are among the headliners bringing their original works to the Night Stage. Orquesta D’Soul will present eclectic Latin funk-soul that veers east to incorporate Japanese rap lyrics.

Saturday night will culminate with "Funky Up in Here: A Tribute to Soul, Rhythm & Blues," featuring Vicki Randle, Evelyn Harris, Toshi Reagon, Judith Casselberry, Aleah Long and Alexis Suter showing a little "r-e-s-p-e-c-t" to the women at the roots of this powerful genre.

Sunday afternoon, back by popular demand, comedy returns to the Day Stage. Marga Gomez anchors this full afternoon, also featuring Georgia Ragsdale, Carlease and Lisa Koch (formerly of Dos Fallopia). Their irreverent sets will ease the pain of packing up and bidding farewell to new friends and longtime family.

There is enough packed into this one week to last everyone the rest of the year. Children’s programs, delicious vegetarian meals, hot showers, disability access and a range of community services complete this temporary community that has recreated itself now for 27 years.

Twenty-seven years? My friend wondered where she’d been all this time. I assured her that it’s never too late to discover the best party on the planet. Each year hundreds of "festie virgins" feel for the first time the magnetic pull of the Michigan woods.

The price for a full week of camping, meals, and all programming and services is $295 - $350 (sliding scale) if purchased before July 20. More information can be obtained at www.michfest.com, or by calling 231-757-4766.

 

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