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Feminists unite -- Second-year Femn Fest draws feminist-friendly crowd for music, art, workshops and more

FLOWTUS performs on the outdoor stage of Femn Fest at Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth Friday night. Femn Fest continues today from noon to midnight. --- Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com1 / 3
Femn Fest fills the Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth Friday night. Femn Fest continues today from noon to midnight. --- Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com2 / 3
Mother performs on the indoor stage of Femn Fest at Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth Friday night. Femn Fest continues today from noon to midnight. --- Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com3 / 3

At Femn Fest, there is red velvet cupcake named for activist Emma Goldman. The anatomic mugs are neither specifically male nor female. There's free chapstick from both PAVSA and the Women's Health Center.

And at some point you have to make a decision like: Do I want an introduction to burlesque, or to listen to electronic folk singer Ingeborg von Agassiz?

The second annual event — a two-day fest that started Friday at Sacred Heart Music Center — is billed as an "unapologetically feminist festival" and includes artists, panelists and women-owned businesses. It continues at noon today and the schedule has yoga, poetry, knitting, Mary Bue, Lunch Duchess and Venus DeMars. There will be sessions on sex positivity, parenting in the non-binary, and consent.

Where last year's fest had a warm, relaxed and welcoming vibe, this year organizers cranked up the tempo. Early arrivals were met with a mix of tunes from Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Belinda Carlisle while the last of the vendors set up booths.

Organizer Abigail Mlinar knew all but about three of the festival's attendees last year.

"This year, not so much," she said.

Online ticket sales more than tripled, she said, then offered up a high-five.

The festival started with a welcome message from organizers and a reminder about respect, and that words matter. A nice substitution for the generic term "guys," for instance, would be "folx."

"Be prepared to have ideas and beliefs challenged," offered organizer Melissa LaTour, who also got a cupcake named for her. Cake Bandit's Melissa Ginger has ginger and cardamom and came with a gluten-free option.

In the alley behind Sacred Heart Music Center, more than a dozen festival-goers learned the burlesque basics from Miss Tallulah Creant and Velvet Noir of the Duluth Dolls. The former offered shoulder and hip tips, while the latter showed the secrets of the Beyonce walk.

Erin Tope, who dances as Miss Tallulah Creant, described the session as a chance for body positivity and self-confidence through movement.

"Your body is your temple," said Tope. "Without it, what would you be?"

By midway through the session, the would-be dancers had learned a chunk of choreography.

Ingeborg von Agassiz played a set on the indoor stage that included the geographically fitting song "Oh The Hillside" and Joan Baez's "Diamonds and Rust" — first offering the origin story. Baez wrote it for Bob Dylan.

Angela Potter, a porcelain stoneware artist, specifically made mugs marked "feminist" for this year's fest.

"I like anything that has to do with empowering women," she said.

A workshop titled "Sexuality & Pleasure Responses" drew a circle of about 20 people and the speaker promised to close the session with a condom rose craft.

The Moon Circle centered on self-care, Be An Art Amazon was a reminder from women in the biz: Know your worth as an artist. Both MRS and FLOWTUS, playing beneath a tent and white lights in the alley, were primo dance opps.

Rebecca Hancock, who has spent the summer in Duluth, said she liked being exposed to new ideas in a supported environment.

"And the collaborative feeling of everyone here," she said.

Before Christine Hoberg, performing as Mother, started her set, college students Hannah Cornish and Ruth Axtell Adams stood at a tall-top table with recently completed coloring projects in front of them.

Axtell-Adams was there for a lineup full of musicians the music fan hadn't yet discovered — the feminist part was a bonus. Cornish didn't know much going into the festival, but found it to be a unique experience.

"Women-centered spaces is something that's important to me," she said.


What: Femn Fest

When: Gates open at noon today, final act is at 11:30 p.m. on the indoor stage.

Where: Sacred Heart Music Center, 201 W. Fourth St.

Tickets: $20 adults, $15 students, children 12 and younger are free with a paid adult.