Dayton’s Ladyfest

The ladies don’t skirt around at this music festival

By Gary Spencer

LadyFest Dayton. Photo courtesy of Peter Wine.

I bet there are quite a few of you out there reading this and wondering, “What exactly is Ladyfest?” Ladyfest is a pancontinental, not-for-profit, music and arts festival that celebrates and showcases local female musicians, visual artists, fashion designers, performance artists and authors within a particular city’s community. While a Ladyfest in Chicago might differ in exact content from a Ladyfest in Berlin, most Ladyfests feature some combination of live music and dance performances, films, lectures, fashion shows, art exhibitions, workshops, clothing and accessory vendors, with an emphasis on all things woman-centric.

The first-ever Ladyfest was held in Olympia, Wash. in 2000, and in the 11 years since, the phenomenon has spread like wildfire both in the U.S. and abroad. Dayton’s Ladyfest is about to enter its fourth year, taking place on September 16 and 17.

Last week, the DCP spoke to longtime Ladyfest Dayton organizer Mary Kathryn Burnside to get the skinny on all things Ladyfest, Dayton-style.

Tell me about Ladyfest Dayton…
It is organized by volunteers and is a family event that people of all ages are welcome to attend. A group of local women who realized how many talented women live in Dayton felt that there was a need for the event to happen here. [Mary Kathryn Burnside]

What do you think of the growth of Ladyfest over the years, both nationally and internationally?
I think it’s amazing that one simple idea for a one-off event has ended up spreading from Olympia, Wash. to all over the world. Especially since all Ladyfests are strictly volunteer-driven and never corporately financed. Every dime that it takes to throw the event is relied upon from donations given at the door upon entry. After the expenses are paid, the rest of the proceeds are split up between local charities and not-for-profit organizations. [M.K.B.]

There’s probably quite a few male readers who are wondering if they would be welcomed at Ladyfest Dayton…
Of course they are! Everyone is more than welcome to come to Ladyfest. Males and females of all ages are welcome and highly encouraged to attend. Ladyfest is not about excluding men. Why not have an event that shows off the various types of talent that women in Dayton have all in one weekend? And why wouldn’t men want to support it and show how proud they are to be from a place that is home to all of these talented ladies? [M.K.B.]

How has Ladyfest Dayton grown over the years?
My favorite change from the previous Ladyfests in Dayton to this year is that this Ladyfest is going to be indoor/outdoor and the last three years were all inside. [M.K.B.]

So what sorts of activities or entertainment should attendees expect at Ladyfest Dayton 2011?
Ladyfest Dayton 2011 will have music of various genres, visual art of all mediums shown by over 40 artists, break-dancers, belly dancers, fire dancers and spoken word. There will also be a shopping area set up of local woman selling various handmade goods. [M.K.B.]

What musicians/bands/performers will be featured at this year’s Ladyfest?
The majority of the entertainment will be performed by [the musicians below]. There are a few others that have yet to confirm: The Seedy Seeds, Jayne Sachs , A Shade of Red , Jasper the Colossal, Paige Bellar, Good English, the Dirty Socialites, Ashley Watson, Susan Yett, Misunderstood, Szilvi J, Little Cub, Eric Henry & Miss Lissa, Michelle Bullock, Fusion Crew, Bronwen Owsley, Soul Fire Tribe and the Rough Customers [to name a few]. [M.K.B.]

How is Dayton’s version of Ladyfest different from other Ladyfests past and present?
So far, Ladyfest Dayton is made up of strictly regional talent. We haven’t sought out major headlining acts to play our event like many other Ladyfests have. We feel that the point is to show the talent we have here at home and from areas close by. Of course having a major headliner would attract more people, but financially that wouldn’t be feasible at this point. [M.K.B.]

Why should people come to Ladyfest Dayton 2011?
People should come to Ladyfest to see the various types of talent that Dayton women have in our city. Ladyfest hosts over 40 visual artists, tons of musicians and other performers that some people may never have the chance to see elsewhere. It is a great cause and a really fun event to attend. It is a great event to network. [M.K.B.]

Ladyfest Dayton 2011 will be held at the Dayton Yellow Cab Building at 700 E. Fourth St. in Dayton September 16 and 17, from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. For more information, visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at

Gary Spencer
Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at

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