The Michigan Womyn
's Music Festival
is a yearly female-only music festival held in August
. It has been taking place every year since 1976. Besides music, there are athletic
, and educational
activities occuring throughout the 650 acres of land in the middle of a national forest
. It lasts about a week
, starting on a Tuesday
and running until a Sunday
every year. It is located near Walhalla, MI
- contact the address/number below for specific directions. The grounds are privately owned by "We Want the Music Company", with underground wiring, running water
, and wheelchair
access throughout the grounds. There is a large turnout - record attendance is 8,200 people, having gone from solely white women in their 20's, to a multicultural gathering of women of all ages.
In 1975, producer Lisa Vogel, Kristie Vogel, and Mary Kindig were driving back from a National Women's Music Festival in Washington, D.C., and were really desiring a festival they didn't have to drive such a long distance to. So, without any experience, the three started working on setting up a weekend music festival. They got the help of Boo Price, also now a producer at the festival, and started spreading the word through women's bookstores, community papers, and other music festivals - where they'd hand out a free cold beer to anyone who would take flyers to distribute in their hometown. It worked - the first year there was attendance of 2,000 people, and the festival has grown since.
The festival has encouraged a number of women to break into more traditionally male-oriented fields. For example, when the festival started, they were using a patchwork of sound equipment borrowed from sound engineers - all male - and run by women with little experience. Since then, a number of women have become sound engineers to help run the festival, and in the process having a big effect in th field of music production.
The festival includes over 40 performances, hundreds of workshops, a film festival, booths for the works of over a hundred artisans, and sports such as basketball, volleyball, and football. There are also plenty of services and infrastructure to make sure that people have what they need during the festival. There are campgrounds, along with plenty of available showers, and the Festival Kitchen, providing three meals every day - all meals are vegetarian. There is also child care for those people that need it, available at a few specific campgrounds on the site. The "Sprouts Toddlers Family Campground" provides care for all children up to 4 years old. The "Gaia Girls Camp" has plenty of girl-oriented activities, and supervises the group as they attend some of the evening concerts. The "Brother Sun Boys Camp" is the only campground where boys and their families are allowed to stay at - it is a secluded campground, keeping the boys away from the rest of the festival to "preserve womyn's space".
The festival has a policy of "womyn-born-womyn only" (persons who were born as, and have lived their entire life as women, and currently identify as such), started after a confrontation in 1991 where a rather butch lesbian, upon finding out another festival goer, Nancy Burkholder, was transsexual, became quite angry and turned it into a large issue. Nancy and her friend were both forcibly ejected from the festival. Soon after, the policy was started. Others have been ejected from the festival - while it started with male-to-female transsexuals, is has gone to inclue female-to-male and other gender variant women. It even reached the point of a brief experiment with "panty checks", though that has since calmed down to a "don't ask don't tell" policy, that they state as "no womon's gender will be questioned on the land", reminiscent of the US Military. To counter this, Camp Trans was set up across from the festival starting in 1999. The festival goers do claim to support and respect the transsexual community, and feel holding the festival s "womyn-born-woymn" space does not contradict this view.
This has not been the only controversy at the festival - past problems have included racism, how to handle male children (see above), and whether to allow the practice of S/M on the festival grounds.
Their web site is located at http://www.michfest.com, and tickets and other printed materials are available at:
Walhalla, MI 49458
V/TTY available after June 13