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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
August 19, 2005

Michigan festival, in its 30th year, is like a reunion

Hart, Mich.--The 30th anniversary of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival from August 9 to 14 was a class reunion for 6,000 students of life and love.

Esther Bloom and Patricia Ladorcy, for instance, hadn’t seen each other in 25 years when they ran into each other at the festival.

Holly Heil of Columbus, who celebrated her 21st time at the festival, came for the “love, energy, beautiful women and sense of community” that the festival creates.

While she didn’t have any specific performers she wanted to see, liking almost all of the women on stage, Kristina Tutt of Cincinnati was especially looking forward to the Indigo Girls, who closed out the night stage on Friday, August 12.

Erin Ciraldo of Columbus, who says she “absolutely loves” the festival, returned for her fourth visit this year, excited about all the performers.

Her excitement was understandable, given the sheer number of entertainers and their diversity.

The outdoor festival has been held each summer in 650 acres of wooded land in western Michigan since 1976. Organizers said that attendance was up about 1,500 from the last three years, but fairly comparable to the 25th festival.

A concert called “30 Years of Rock Chix Lix” brought together Alyson Palmer of Betty on bass, Julie Wolfe, who often backs up Ani DiFranco, on keyboards, Allison Miller on drums and Jen Leigh on guitar.

The dyke-rock supergroup were fronted by over a dozen major names in women’s music, including Amy and Elizabeth Ziff of Betty, Toshi Reagon, both Bitch and Animal Prufrock, Alix Olson and Ferron.

Columbus native Suzanne Westenhoefer opened the night stage on Saturday, August 13, which was hosted by comedian Elvira Curt. Westenhoefer’s light-hearted lesbian comedy was well received by the crowd.

The festival exemplified multiculturalism throughout the five days, with artists as diverse as Ulali, a Native American trio, Ember Swift from Toronto, New Zealand’s Topp Twins, the R&B stylings of Toshi Reagon and Big Lovely and “Nuyorasian” Julliard graduates Slanty Eyed Mama.

Iconic punk-rockers Tribe 8 rocked the festival, as did indie goddesses Le Tigre and the Butchies.

In addition to the legendary Indigo Girls, other fabled performers included Holly Near and Cris Williamson.

Of course, music, dance and poetry coupled with the sense of community were not the only attractions of the festival. It might be called the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, but the event also included sweat lodges, purification rituals used in Native American cultures.

And while men are not allowed at the festival, a camp for boys aged 5 to 10 was available for women who could not leave their sons at home while they enjoyed all the festival had to offer. Brother Sun Boys Camp offered field trips, campfire stories, arts and crafts, games and workshops.

Workshops are also a major part of the festival for the women who attend, with classes taught in singing, drumming, and a multitude of styles of dance.

Alix Olson, one of the most prominent female spoken-word artists in the country, offered a workshop on her craft, and other workshops focused on herbal medicine, astrology, bike mechanics, retirement planning and legal protections for relationships, among dozens of others.

“Having over 6,000 women spanning seven generations gather for the 30th anniversary of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival was an amazing affirmation of the importance of this empowering creation of community,” said Holly Pruett, a volunteer organizer for the event.

Next year’s festival will be held from August 8 to 13, 2006. More information will be on http://www.michfest.com/ as it becomes available.

Anthony Glassman contributed to this report.

 

 

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