Long-Lived Lesbian Festival: The Last MichFest (Part 1)


The festival impressed me as a place where women could achieve greatness — without men.


As most CURVE readers know by now, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, held annually for the past 40 summers, came to an end this year. The last festival was August 4-9th; the last workers are leaving the land as I write this.


I wasn’t able to make it this year due to caregiving commitments, but I’ve been five or six times in the past, and I’m saddened by the festival’s end. I want to talk about why it’s significant for so many older lesbians.


When my girlfriend told me she’d heard that 2015 would be the final MichFest, I instantly denied it. “No,” I said, “I’m sure that’s not true.” The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has been part of my life since I was a teenager, 40 years ago. As far as I know, it’s the world’s biggest, most powerful, empowering, and beautiful event run by older lesbians. The idea of its disappearance is almost unthinkable. My reaction was the same as when someone told me – during a hike in Ireland in September 11th 2001 — that the Pentagon had been attacked: a quiet confidence that such a thing was impossible.


But I was quietly, confidently wrong. Lisa Vogel, who in 1976 co-founded We Want the Music Collective (WWTMC, now called the We Want the Music Company) announced in April 2015 that this year’s fest will be the last.


I’m shocked and sorry about the ending of the festival, which I’ve attended five times since 1982. I went once as a straight woman, once as a coming-out bisexual, and three times as a lesbian. Twice I worked at the festival, spending two weeks on the land on stage crews.


At first, the festival impressed me as a place where women could be together and could achieve greatness without men; later the community and the space was helpful to me in my coming out. I still remember the moment when I realized that most of the women at the festival were gay. I was standing next to a woman I admired, a long-time festival worker, and telling her how impressed I was with the sound at the night stage. Looking up at the twin towers built of scaffolding, holding a mixing table and speaker system worthy of an outdoor Rolling Stones concert – or even Ferron! — I said, “I love it that this was all put together by women.”


She said, “Not just women. Dykes!”


Next time: why I love the festival.