Tips for First Timers
You've heard about the Festival and you've decided to come. Great! The information below is focused on answering the most often asked questions and the things that most frequently finish the statement, "If I'd only known or thought of....". We hope you find them helpful!
BE SURE TO BRING:
YOU MAY WANT TO BRING:
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE FRONT GATE:
Monday: The Front Gate opens at 1pm on Monday afternoon and closes at 10pm. We suggest first timers arrive Monday to allow yourself time to set up and get ready for Tuesday's events. Because lots of womyn want to arrive on Monday the Front Gate line on this day is longer than usual, particularly right at 1pm. So, prepare to spend some time in your car and chatting with other excited gals waiting to make their way into the Festival.
Tuesday - Sunday: The Front Gate keeps a regular schedule: 8am to 10pm, Tuesday through Saturday and 8am to 5pm on Sunday. The Box Office and all Front Gate services (Shuttle, Parking, Orientation) are closed from 10pm to 8am.
Time allotment: Allow two hours for the arrival process (getting through the line, getting your wrist ticket, dropping off gear at the shuttle, parking your car, going through orientation, taking a shuttle into the interior to choose a campsite). If you're picking up or purchasing any type of ticket, you will also need time to do business at the Box Office.
Your Wrist Ticket: You'll receive a plastic wristband when you enter the gate that is your pass to all Festival services and events. It is checked at primary areas such as the kitchen and concerts, so please don't take it off! It is not replaceable.
Arrive during daylight: Try to arrive before 5pm so you'll have plenty of time to set up your camp before dark. If you arrive after 7:30pm on one of the busiest nights (Monday through Wednesday) it's likely that you won't make it into the campgrounds until dusk or dark. It's possible to set up late at night and in the dark, but it can be difficult and disorienting for womyn unfamiliar to the site.
Parking: Once you're through the gate, you'll move to the shuttle drop area. You'll unload all your gear and extra passengers, and be directed to a parking spot. (Assistance with arrival and parking is available for disabled womyn.)
Orientation/Workshifts: After parking, you'll walk back toward shuttle drop and go into the orientation tent, to view a Festival video providing a glimpse of what to expect in the days ahead. Here you'll also sign up for your workshift(s), choosing among the 25 different community work areas. The sign-up sheets describe special skills required, job limitations and workshift time segments. Everyone attending for four to six days is expected to participate in two 4-hour workshifts; womyn attending one to three days are expected to do one 4-hour workshift. Your Festival ticket plus the workshift(s) is considered your admission fee. Aside from helping to keep the cost of the Festival down, workshifts allow you to connect with other womyn and are an integral part of how we build the Festival community.
At orientation you'll also receive a Festival program describing all of the Festival's activities, performances, special events, workshops and services. We suggest you take some time to read through the program as soon as possible after your arrival.
Getting to your campsite: After orientation, you'll go back to shuttle drop, reconnect with your gear and get a ride in a surrey, van, bus or open flatbed trailer into the actual campgrounds. The shuttle will take you to a few centrally located stops. (See the map on the back of the program to choose which campground best suits you - quiet, loud, chemical free, over-50's, general, etc.) Once dropped off you'll carry your gear and find a spot to set up camp for the week.
CHOOSING A CAMPSITE
SETTING UP YOUR TENT
PREPARING YOUR TENT BEFORE YOU ARRIVE
You can expect to be in shorts most of the day and a sweater and/or jacket at night. However, northern Michigan in mid-August is unpredictable. It can be quite hot during the day (80's and 90's) and warm in the evenings. It can also be mild during the day, and downright cold during the night. You may be in shorts and sun block all week, or sweaters and jackets, so pack to be comfortable across the full range of summer weather - including rain! Check the weather forecasts before you come so you'll at least know the trend. Since we are only 20 miles from Lake Michigan we get quick weather changes during the day, usually a rain shower sometime during the week (often at night) and gusty winds in the early evenings. Be sure to plan for some kind of rain shower with proper camping gear, a poncho or rain slicker and at least one change of good walking shoes.
WOMYN'S CULTURE - WHAT IS THAT EXPERIENCE?
There is no way to really be prepared for the experience of being in such a large gathering of womyn in a totally womyn-created environment (even if you've attended other regional festivals). It is exhilarating, exciting, liberating and overwhelming at times. For many of us it is a relaxing, organic environment where we feel most whole and most truly ourselves.
The experience of the Festival can also bring up some challenging feelings. Because most womyn feel uniquely "safe" at the Festival, they can experience feelings about the lack of safety womyn feel in many communities. The unique freedom womyn feel to be themselves at the Festival may bring up feelings about the burden of being "closeted" at home. It's possible to feel a disquieting sense of separation or invisibility if you are heterosexual and have never been in a community where the dominant sexual preference is different than your own. Of course, you will have an experience that is uniquely your own, and possibly none of these things will come up.
There is a great deal to do at the Festival and it's okay to be selective about what activities you choose to participate in. You don't need to try everything in one year. Don't hesitate to ask someone at orientation, triangle or the community center if you have questions or if you need help. If you start to feel overwhelmed, choose a way to connect with a small group of womyn so it brings the Festival back down to size. The best and most readily available way to do this is to take a workshift somewhere that puts you in direct and personal contact with other womyn. Even if you haven't signed up, just walk up and volunteer - say you have some time and would like to help.
Each year we hear from so many womyn who have such great, unexpected experiences connecting with womyn chopping carrots, pulling an all night security shift or taking the kids on a nature walk. There are also almost continual workshops, as well as game tournaments, quilting and networking at the community center, support groups at Oasis, and of course the casual campfire chat or song. Womyn come to the Festival to experience and take part in womyn's community, and that community is formed as each of us creates our space, extends ourselves to each other and lives next to one another with genuine mutual consideration.
One of the beauties and challenges of our community is its diversity. We create a village each year made up of womyn from other countries, different cultures, classes, religious heritages, physical abilities, lifestyles and ages. The community has established a few guidelines over the years that we think are worth mentioning. The Festival provides seating for smoking at each stage and has smoking-OK areas designated within most campgrounds. If an area is not designated as smoking-OK, please check in with those near you to see if it's OK to smoke. Please don't smoke while standing in line, walking down a path, or in any of the Festival service tents. We have come up with these guidelines in an attempt to respect the rights of smokers and non-smokers alike, providing space for both on the Land. At each stage there is also Chem-OK and Chem-free seating. If you plan to drink alcohol please do not sit in the Chem-free area. We may forget these guidelines, and a gentle reminder is always appreciated.
Since children are integrated into our community, we all need to be mindful about adult sexual or provocative behavior. When we are in public spaces such as concerts, open workshops, paths or other common areas, we expose those around us to our behavior whether they consent or not. We want you to enjoy the opportunity to behave freely at the Festival but please use common sense about where and when you enjoy that freedom and remain aware of those around you.
Also, we encourage you to give other womyn friendly reminders about these guidelines when the occasion warrants it. We each have an individual responsibility to our community to both give and receive gentle reminders with compassion and consideration.
Each and every one of us creates the community feeling that we all value so much - it is not something the Festival "provides." The Festival does provide a fertile ground for community to grow. Probably the most important thing we each bring to Michigan is a commitment to help and create a caring and loving womyn's community. That common commitment combined with our diverse mixture of life experience, background, culture, ability, age and race is what creates this community, bringing womyn together from around the world.
You can access additional detailed information on Festival services and systems, including information about: DART (Disabled Access Resource Team), RVs, Kennels, General Workshops, Airport Shuttles, Reduced Rate Ticket Guidelines (for economically disadvantaged womyn; not available online - please call by June 5th to request the information), Childcare (Girls, Boys or Sprouts), Work Crew Applications (after November 12th) and Crafts and Vendor Applications (after December 15th).
If you forget something (or don't think of it in the first place) you'll be fine. There are a number of locations on-site, such as Orientation, the Community Center and all of the Security/Communications posts where womyn will be happy to answer your questions. In addition the Country Store carries almost anything you'd need: camping gear, traditional and healthy junk food, batteries, ice etc. If you have questions after you read this, feel free to write or call us before you leave for the Festival. The Festival bulletin board also provides a good, pre-Festival information forum, where womyn discuss every detail of Festival life.
See you in August!
Festival dates are August 4-9, 2015
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