By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
HART, Mich. – Each year, the Festival grows. From “four full-time and a couple of part-time people,” in the off-season, by the time it begins there is a staff of “about 500.”
Last year, “about 4,000” women attended.
But this year is an anniversary year, so “we’re expecting there to be a bigger turnout,” according to Sandy Ramsey, one of the Festival organizers.
Not bad for a dream that began thirty years ago in the hearts of three women.
According to Ramsey, the Michgan Womyn’s Music Festival was begun by Lisa Vogel, her sister Kristie Vogel, and Mary Kinding. Lisa has remained the producer while Kindig is also still involved.
According to the Festival’s web site, organizers have ambitious plans for the 2005 event.
“This year’s version includes over 40 performances, hundreds of workshops, a film festival, a crafts fair, and fitness and dance classes. The program will celebrate the artists who have fueled the Festival culture from our beginnings in 1976 and bring together all of the artists who contribute to the Festival’s musical heartbeat in the new millennium.”
Lyn Austin of Southfield said that she has been going to the Festival for 11 or 12 years.
“It’s pretty amazing,” she said of the event. “It is just wonderful, wonderful. Just parking your car and not driving for a week, the feminine energy, music and art and kids, and magic and freedom and nudity and craziness.”
Performers at the 2005 Festival will include national acts like the Indigo Girls, Ember Swift and Suzanne Westenhoefer. There will be variety as well, with performers like One World Inspirational Choir, Ulali, The Butchies, Ferron, and God-Des on the various stages during the almost week-long event.
But the story of the Music Festival is not just about great performers. It’s about community. According to the Festival web site, “We all contribute to the outrageous task of bringing this communal city to life.” Participants are asked to contribute one or two, four-hour workshifts at the Festival, depending on the length of their stay.
“This intentional community defines Michigan, blending the magical mix of every womyn’s talents, ideas and energy into one amazing week,” says the web site.
Diversity is another hallmark of the Festival. In a part of the Festival called the Community Center complex, Festival-goers will “…find a great array of community activities and events, along with networking space for Teens, Over-40’s, Jewish womyn, deaf and HOH womyn, and womyn from other countries.” In addition, “… the Womyn of Colors Tent provides an ongoing opportunity for exploration and reclamation of our many and varied traditions.”
Ella Ruth Johnson of Detroit said that “I’ve been [to the Festival] more than I haven’t,” since 1983.
“I love the fact that it’s outside, I like the camping, I like the women – I’ve met women from as far away as Sri Lanka. It’s wonderful,” she said.
That diversity is carried over into the range of different activities that women can enjoy while at the Festival. In addition to the entertainers, networking space for different communities of women within the Festival, and the various workshops, there will be a film festival with both open-air and indoor screenings and a crafts bazaar with over 140 craftswomen displaying and selling their wares.
Glynes Graham of Detroit said that she attends the Festival “every year that I get a chance.”
“The first Festival I went to was probably in 90 or 91,” she said, “and I was a really regular Festival-goer for five years, because it was so wonderful I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else.”
Not only is the Festival an event and a community, it becomes something of a mini-city. A Festival kitchen serves three meals a day to participants, there is a shuttle to bring participants from their cars to the campsite, and services ranging from childcare to “an active peer-support system for recovery and general emotional needs” to help for women with disabilities are available.
Ramsey said that the Festival has “become my life’s work, actually. A good portion of my life, and it’s creating this fabulous space for women one week out of the year where women can come together and support each other and learn and enjoy fabulous music and dancing and comedy and crafts – not to mention the over 200 workshops that happen.”
For more information, including registration information, about the 2005 Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, visit http://www.michfest.com or call 231-757-4766. For a related article about Camp Trans, which protests MWMF’s “womyn born womyn” policy click here.