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    Women’s Weekend on the Russian River Comes Full Circle

    womenweek“Women’s Weekend,” the classic women’s music and comedy festival that has been happening in the Russian River area for over 27 years, is being reinvented by its original founder.

    In September of 1986, Carmen McKay was a worker at the West Coast Women’s Music and Comedy Festival near Yosemite when a large forest fire broke out, endangering the lives of the 150 workers setting up for the festival and, ultimately, cancelling the festival itself. McKay donned a Wonder Woman outfit she happened to have with her, and led the women out of danger on her motorcycle. She then diverted 600 disappointed festivalgoers to the Atlantis Resort in Guerneville, CA.

    womenweek3In 1987, McKay began working with Eric Pariser, manager of The Woods Resort in Guerneville, to bring entertainment, a crafts faire and a large promotional outreach to build upon a smaller women’s gathering called “May Day,” which was started in 1982 by The Woods and Fife’s Resort. The resulting “Women’s Weekend” attracted 6000 women bi-annually to the area until the mid 90s, when McKay turned the festival over to the community. The festival eventually devolved into a smaller event, with the one last May in Guerneville attracting approximately 300 women.

    McKay is reviving and reinventing the festival this September 12–14 with her partner, Annie Albright. McKay and Albright own “She She,” a lesbian event production company located in San Diego, CA. “Women’s Weekend 2.0 REINVENTED” will be held at the outdoor Monte Rio Amphitheater in Monte Rio, CA, and will feature headlining act Beverly McClellan from NBC’s The Voice, as well as comics Julie Goldman of Logo and Bravo TV and Suzanne Westenhoefer. The event will also offer a golf tournament, crafts fair, flash mob dance, wine tasting, a Sunday Jazz and Blues line up, childcare, and “The Largest Lesbian Singles Mixer in the World,” among many other activities.

    womenweek2“I’m so excited to bring Women’s Weekend back to its full glory! This festival will be focused on diversity, fun and connection,” McKay told the Bay Times. “The festival will naturally attract the young market and we are marketing to include the lesbians over 35. Baby Boomers are welcome! Many women call the festival ‘The Dinah Soar,’ referring to the large Dinah Shore festival in Palm Springs.”

    She continued, “The theme of the festival is, ‘Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.’ The event is designed to give women permission to really connect—rather than hide out in cliques.” She added, “Ten percent of the festival profits will be donated to the National Center for Lesbian Rights.”

    Friday and Saturday night will offer DJ dancing at the River Theater in Guerneville, which will be transformed into a nightclub complete with a sound system and laser lighting purchased from George Lucas’s studio. Friday night will feature a surprise guest DJ from the Bay Area. On Saturday night, DJ Rockaway of the “Play” dances will be featured. Both nights will cater to all age groups as the DJs will be spinning old school tunes from 7–10pm (for the over 35 crowd) and hip-hop and r&b tunes from 10pm to 2am. Lorie Moore from the TV show The X Factor will be debuting her new hip-hop album on Saturday night at 10pm.

    womenweek4“We really have created a place where there is something for everyone,” McKay said. “No matter what age you are or whether you are single or coupled, you will feel welcome, comfortable, and will have more fun than when you were a teenager! This event is designed for women to play full out.”

    Camping and hotel accommodations exclusively for women are available and listed on the Women’s Weekend 2.0 website. Carpool and room sharing information are also available on the site.

    Advance purchase tickets start at $15 for the evening events and $50 for a full-day pass.