Begun in 1975 and one of the longest-running women's events in the world, the phenomenally popular Michigan Womyn's Music Festival celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015; the festival organizers also announced that this would be the final year of the festival.
As the name suggests, music was the common bond that drew thousands of attendees to a secluded 650-acre private site in the pristine Manistee National Forest.
Performances here ranged from acoustic folk crooners to rocking grrrl bands. In recent years, a wide range of acts performed at the festival, among them Marga Gomez, Sista Otis, Ferron, Bitch, Toshi Reagon, Patty Larkin, Melissa Ferrick, Issa (formerly Jane Siberry), Chix Lix Flix, Poppy Champlin, Drumsong Orchestra with Ubaka Hill, Holly Near, Cris Williamson, Ruth Barrett, Anais Mitchell, Betty, and the Indigo Girls. You'll also have the chance to watch comedy, theater, and other often edgy, provocative performances.
At the festival during its final year, performers included C.C. Carter, Marga Gomez, Laura Love with Big Bad Gina, Jill Sobule, Betty, Medusa, Reina Williams, Cris Williamson, Holly Near, Elvira Kurt, Bitch, Ferron, Melissa Ferrick, Chix Lix, Staceyann Chin, Hanifah Walidah, and comedians Mimi Gonzalez, Julie Goldman, and Karen Williams.
Here as at many such festivals, the opportunity to watch musicians was just part of the fun.
The festival hosted dozens of workshops covering a mind-bending wealth of topics - music and art seminars touched on everything from drumsong and salsa dancing to singing in the sacred circle, but you could also sign up for workshops with such diverse themes as breast-casting for womyn of color, teens exploring astrology, Amazon archery, community croning ritual, articulating trauma, and partner yoga and Thai massage.
There was also a film festival, organized sports, and a crafts sale representing the wares of some 150 artisans.
The Michigan fest was held outdoors and in tents and runs like a well-oiled machine - participants set up their own tents, volunteer one or two four-hour work shifts (depending on whether they attend the festival for just a couple of days or its entire duration), and are provided three meals (all vegetarian) per day. There's a shuttle and assistance service for attendees with disabilities, and daytime camps for toddlers, boys 5 to 10 years old, and girls 5 and up. The festival's extremely helpful FAQ page for first-timers answers just about every question you could ever have had about attending.