by Jill Finkelson
Deb Jenkins returns for a 23rd year of celebrating Fargo’s Women- and their music. The story is old news now, Deb tells me over the phone as I ask her- how did this start? 23 years ago, she was working at a little cafe in downtown fargo and she asked if she could bring in some musicians. Obviously, Fargo delivered. There are so many women making great music and producing art-- the next step was bringing them all together. This was the same time Sarah McLachlan was doing the Lilith Fair and touring. Inspired by a show featuring only women, she thought to put together her own celebration of women. The Lilith Fair burned out but our celebration lives on here in Fargo.
She called around town and Margie Bailey of the Fargo Theatre didn’t just say “we’ll think about it.” She said, come on down. She was really excited about it and the Celebration started its life in the Fargo Theatre. And there it stayed for twenty years. Two years ago, they moved to the FM Community Theatre. This year, the show will be particularly intimate in the Spirit Room downtown. The show has had other performances at venues around town like the Hodo and Sidestreet. It’s really a community effort to give space and time to the musicians.
The show has had big years and not-so-big years. Sometimes they turned people away at the Fargo theatre and others felt empty. But the women and their music continues. Some of the performers have performed every year and some are brand new. While our local talent stands out, performers have come from around the country throughout the years. On inviting people to perform, she says she’s looking to speak with the artist themself. If you have to go through three people before you can speak with them, it’s probably not what she’s looking for. Years ago, she found a fantastic artist on MySpace and just sent her a pm. The message really resonated everywhere.
The goal is not to just put on a show but to give back to the community in a big way. Donors and supporters from all over have chipped in just for the idea of the show. And that matters. This year, ten young women from right here are winners. The awards are for talent, dedication and hard work they have put into their craft. In recent years, they opened up submissions to all high school-aged girls. You can go on the website and read their own words. They have gone on to become musicians and artists around the country and studied and honed their craft. Some went onto study at prestigious schools. Because of the inspiration and connections found right here in Fargo. The award winners are not just musicians. Young women who paint and dance are recognized. There are classical musicians and folk singers. The common bond is hungry young women pursuing artistic expression. She has found a huge amount of community support from local businesses and people. Venues and businesses provide space and sponsor artists to perform.
It’s really a…