WOMEN'S MUSIC FESTIVALS (BARELY) BACK TO NATURE
Every year thousands of women (some having traveled across continents) camp out, share showers and port-a-potties, stand in line for food that can generously be described as "adequate," and then stay up night after night till the wee hours of early morning! Furthermore, they not only do this willingly, but enthusiastically.
The attraction? Women's music festivals. Year after year women return to these festivals, where close bonds are formed with others who've made the same pilgrimage. For them, the events take on the flavor of a family reunion, adding to the dogged devotion. The festivals, growing in number and popularity, are entertainment spectacles, educational smorgasbords, craftswomen's showcases, cultural opportunities, and just plain good old-fashioned fun.
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING
The festivals have grown more and more comprehensive, and it is now common to find workshops on healing, overcoming the "isms," improving lesbian relationships, health and fitness, lesbian politics, parenting, entrepreneurship, spirituality, and older women's issues. Country-western dancing lessons and drumming are frequently offered, and theater experiences can range from distinctly amateur to near-Broadway professional. Some of the festivals offer too much to choose from, leaving the attendee dizzy with decision-making and gnashing her teeth over missed opportunities. With each event scheduled only once a year, the producers understandably try to provide as large a variety of events as they can so that there is something for everyone. The more eclectic one's tastes, the more difficult it is to narrow down the choices.
LET THE MUSIC PLAY
If contemplating attending a women's music festival, there are certain admonitions to heed. "Rustic" is the popular description of the facilities at most festivals, and if one is hypersensitive to heat, careful consideration of the time of year and place of the event is advised. Bare breasts are not a requirement, but definitely a widely embraced option available for the duration of the festivals. Everyone is required to share in the workload, and the heat, dust, long lines and hard ground can be daunting, even for veterans. If that doesn't scare you away, you're in for an almost surreal retreat.
To experience the largest, journey to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (Walhalla, Michigan; 616-757-4766)- - a six-day extravaganza which draws 7,000-8,000 women annually to 650 acres of wooded land in northwest Michigan. The first two days offer half- and full-day workshops covering an incredibly wide array of topics providing a wonderful way to network with women with similar interests and curiosities. Numerous affinity groups are always delineated, and some sprout up spontaneously when two or three like-minded women gather together! When the festival starts rolling, there are three performance stages -- the day stage may have music and comedy, an early-evening stage may present theater which women can watch while eating their dinner, and the night stage is usually the site for musical performances by women's music heroines.
DON'T TREAT ME LIKE A STRANGER JUST BECAUSE WE'VE NEVER MET
Women find that other women who attend the festivals are generally very open, friendly and happy to be there. This helps create a wonderfully positive atmosphere where lesbians feel liberated, able to live temporarily in a world where everywhere they look there are other lesbians living their lives openly. The festivals create a rarified environment, where one feels free to be who she is without shame, fear or caution. There is unanimous agreement among festival goers that attending at least one women's music festival is a "must" for all lesbians. You may find it literally a "once in a lifetime experience," but you might also be hooked like the thousands of women who return and/or travel to other festivals year after year. There are dozens of women's music festivals held nationally and internationally in all sorts of exotic locales throughout the year.
Ladyfest is an expanding network of women's music festivals. Women-run festivals of music, dance parties, spoken word, workshops and more, unlike the venerable Michigan event, all are welcome to attend. Having sprouted from the original Olympia, WA festival in 2000, over 60 Ladyfests have now taken place and there are dozens of Ladyfests scheduled worldwide. u London, Cork, Ireland, Baltimore and Bordeaux, France are all on the 2008 festival schedule.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four
Women's Travel: Introduction
Women's Travel: U.S. South
Women's Travel: U.S. East
Women's Travel: U.S. West
Women's Travel: Canada/Mexico
Women's Travel: Europe
Women's Travel: Travel Safety