GO! Presents 100 Women We Love: Class of 2024

THE CULTURAL ROADMAP FOR CITY GIRLS EVERYWHERE

SisterSpace Weekend Women’s Festival 2024

July 4, 2024

Sisterspace just might be the rite of passage that you didn't know you needed.

SisterSpace is a volunteer-run multi-generational festival that has been welcoming cis and trans women as well as non-binary individuals for a transformative weekend for the past 49 years. What started as a women’s self defense workshop weekend in 1975 has evolved into a 3-day extravaganza of concerts, workshops, DJ dances, activities, and a place where attendees feel truly at home. 

by Jo-Ann McIntyre

“Every single time you hear from somebody new who has gone [to Sisterspace] for the first time […] they talk about finding a place where they felt comfortable, where they felt accepted, and where they felt loved,” SisterSpace Board Member Jo-Ann McIntyre tells GO Magazine. McIntyre started working with SisterSpace in 2000 – a few years after the happenings migrated from The Poconos to its current locale in the Delaware Valley. Community is ultimately what keeps people coming back to Sisterspace no matter its location— and the great food, music, parties, and workshops don’t hurt either.  

by Jess Rigney

The annual post-Labor Day celebration of women’s music and culture has something for everyone. In addition to sound stages, tent grounds and cabins plus section for RV’s, the property boasts a swimming pool, ArtSpace, sports activities (like pickleball, flag football, water aerobics, hikes, basketball, volleyball), Sexuality Space, Sweat Lodge, movies and more – all set amongst the serene rolling hills of northern Maryland. 

by Nora Baroody

This year, organizers anticipate a crowd that could easily surpass 500 participants; both familiar faces and first-timers all coming together for the chance to relax, be free, and to be themselves.

“We’re keenly aware that women have all kinds of levels of resources, and we really try to make the festival financially accessible to absolutely every woman,” says Polly Laurelchild-Hertig, Entertainment & PR Committees, of the sliding scale price. The festival has historically been run by a coalition of diverse women at all levels of the organization – from the person who puts on your wristband at the gate, to the Board of Directors. On the accessibility front, paved roads lead to major attractions and volunteers are on hand to assist with any needed transport. The dining hall is ramped, and wheel-chair accessible cabins are available. Interpreters are on hand for Deaf attendees. Children are welcome (boys under 7) at the festival and at many of the activities and workshops. 

by Nora Baroody

“Every woman should be able to come to SisterSpace and see or hear somebody on stage who she identifies with generationally, with different styles, different artistic presentations, and different points of view,” Laurelchild-Hertig tells GO.

On Friday, Ubaka Hill will light up the night procession with her African-based transformational drumming (campers’ hand held percussion are welcome!). The Friday Night Stage also features Philly-based gender-expansive songwriter Samantha Rise whose music draws on their experience between urban and high desert wilderness; Multi-GRAMMY-winning folk duo Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer; and NYC-based Latin-funk band Dawn Drake & ZapOte with their tropical pop and Salsa funk vibe. 

Ubaka Hill

On Friday, guests can expect to experience Blues legend Gaye Adegbalola’s sexy slide guitar with Stephanie Chin opening at the Late Night Jazz and Blues Club; R&B songster, Reina Williams poolside; and the vibrant vocals of body-positive songstress Heather Mae and Lourdes Pérez. DJ Maria, the official DJ of the WNBA, is slated to wrap-up Saturday night with her high-energy dance tunes. Ubaka Hill and the Shapeshifters will also perform Saturday night to close out the live night stage on a high note! On Sunday, an Open Mic encourages every woman to express her creative side — whether you bring a song, a poem, short story, creative dance, or something new. Andrea Nardello, Rebekah Laur’en, and Stephanie Gayle are also slated to perform Sunday. 

Rebekah Laur’en

When the lights go down, cozy up in your sleeping bag, or join the late night migrations to the General Store for snacks or ever-popular karaoke, bonfire, or Sexuality Space, known for midnight themed parties, private rooms, and day/evening sexuality and relationship workshops.

“People will be willing to talk to you openly if you want to do anything,” McIntyre tells GO, referring to the sexual openness of Sisterspace. “If you want to try anything, somebody will be there to help you and make sure that you are within your comfort level.” Did I mention the message boards? “Hey, I need someone to hold me and snuggle with me for an hour” or “I want light spanking” are samples of notes you might see.

Led by enthusiastic amateurs and experts who are also camp attendees, Sisterspace’s workshops are as interesting and varied as the community itself.

Popular returning workshops include Zumba, Singing Bowl Sound Baths, Cardio Boxing led by a AAA+ Olympic trainer, Coach Gloria Thornton-Peak. Prior workshops have included How to Make Coquito, Bellydancing, Young Queers/Old Dykes Multigenerational Dialogue, Happily Single, Women of Color Forum, or Breast Casting. Of course, we all have our preferences. My life bucket list includes learning how to use a drill, so I’ll be looking for How to use Power Tools (also, what’s not to love about meeting up with a hot queer who might be inclined to build me a bookcase).

by Jess Rigney

Have a workshop idea you’d be psyched to present? SisterSpace wants to hear your proposal!

The festival is also a unique opportunity to recharge and refresh. The timing couldn’t be more inviting given the current political climate intent on dialing the clock back to the 1800’s.  

“We need to pump up our own batteries by being with people who support us and accept us and get us,” says Laurelchild-Hertig, who understands that we might not always see eye to eye with each other, but at our core, most of us can relate to each other. “[As] women, and those people who live in the world as females [or with non-binary identities], our rights are under attack in a way that is shocking and terrifying and very, very likely to get worse before it gets better. We have to unite. We have to make common cause with each other.”

Sisterspace just might be the rite of passage that you didn’t know you needed. One young woman in her 20’s recently caught up with organizers and said that she “didn’t know this kind of place existed…didn’t know what it was like to be in a festival environment where everything is run by and done for women.”

SisterSpace 2024 opens Friday, September 6 at 10:00 a.m., and runs around the clock, ending at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 8.  Meals are included from Friday lunch through extended Sunday brunch with vegan, vegetarian, and meat-based options. 

It’s a short drive from Philadelphia, Wilmington, Washington, D.C., southern NJ, and a few hours from NYC; Amtrak serves nearby Aberdeen MD with an available shuttle. 

“You will have a marvelous experience if you come with a great attitude because there are so many things to see and do, and marvelous women from all over the country to meet and talk with and have fun with,” Laurelchild-Hertig tells GO. “There are places to be serious, there are places to be joyful.”

Tickets are available at sisterspace.org

To volunteer (and get a big discount on your festival admission!): register online.  

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