20 Years of Women


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The sometimes brisk autumn that has begun to settle over Iowa City can only mean one thing, besides Hawkeye football: the annual Iowa Women’s Music Festival.

Friday will kick off the 20th version of the festival at 7 p.m. at the Johnson County Fairgrounds. Admission is free. The event will continue through Saturday as the community will come together to celebrate female performers from all over the country.

The festival will include a variety of musical acts as well as a comedic performance by Julie Goldman and a spoken performance by Andrea Gibson. The event will also include a silent auction, celebrity fashion show, and raffle.

The music genres cover anything from God Des and She’s R&B to folk by Suzanne Vega. Other performers include Zoe Lewis, Natalie Brown,  and Lojo Russo, to name a few.

“Our intention with the festival is to provide a space for female performers to play,” said Laurie Haag, the event founder.

When the event kicked off, Haag’s goal was to present a better light for female performers. But 20 years later, Haag said, the event is “celebrating how far women in the arts have come.”

“We’re not putting on the festival for the same reasons that we were 20 years ago,” she said.

Now, it’s more about the music.

Claudia Schmidt, one of this year’s musicians and one of the original performers at the first festival, will play a folk-jazz repertoire. Schmidt, who says she gets inspiration by simply “looking around,” looks forward to watching the other acts.

“I am constantly touring and making new connections,” she said.  “It’s great to be able to sit back and listen to the other performances and to be a part of it all.”

Lisa Schreihart, a coordinator for the event for the past 12 years, said the festival is not like any other in the area.

“Some of these performers come far and wide; you won’t get a chance to hear them live unless you leave Iowa,” she said. “This is our opportunity to bring these artists into the community and give them the chance to perform.”

Schreihart’s favorite aspect about the festival is the positive energy and the family-friendly atmosphere.

“When these artists get together, the energy is so great,” she said. “You see some really cool things happen between them. They come and enjoy one another.”

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