On an unseasonably mild October Saturday night, Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs slowly came back to life as the second annual Ladyfest ramped up.
A rotating array of singers took to the stage at the Ritz, along with two illuminated stages on the street — one at Post Office (Healey) Square, and the main stage in front of the Island Theater. The Outskirts kicked off the night at the Ritz with a rocking and varied performance. A number of main stage performances from Kate Taylor, Mike Benjamin, Barbara Dacey, and more kept the party going. The Post Office Square stage also featured some standout local talent with the likes of Missis Biskis, Lucy Mayhew, Rose Guerin, Nina Violet, Jemima James, and more.
Heat lamps cranked outside the Ritz and Sharky’s Cantina, where folks sat and listened to the music.
Ladyfest was co-founded in 2017 by Rose Guerin and Kelly Feirtag, with assistance from the Ritz’s owner, Larkin Stallings. The organizers partnered with Connect to End Violence, a program of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS), to raise awareness about domestic violence and abuse in our small community. The 2017 event was so popular that the organizers decided to spread out to Circuit Avenue this year.
Donations of $10 were taken in exchange for a Ladyfest wristband good for 10 percent off all food and drinks at participating businesses, including Sharky’s Cantina, Slice of Life, Offshore Ale, the Ritz, and many more.
According to Connect to End Violence education and prevention coordinator Heather Arpin, Ladyfest is a way to get the word out about an often overlooked issue. “It’s good to spread the word about our mission and have access to people who normally wouldn’t be exposed to this type of knowledge,” Arpin said. “It is so great to see this amount of people here listening to the performances, and it’s a perfect night for it.”
Connect to End Violence program director Jennifer Neary said she was impressed by the sense of community and togetherness at the event. “A lot of people are surprised there is such a huge amount of support for victims of domestic abuse or sexual violence,” she said. “It’s such a fun event, and really gives everyone an excuse to come together and enjoy the night.”
Neary said the statistics surrounding domestic violence speak for themselves. “One in three women and one in five men experience domestic violence. A lot of people don’t know that, because that information isn’t as accessible,” she said. “We’re are here to educate and inform people, and also support women in the community.”
In the future, Neary said she hopes the event will continue to gain popularity, just as it has in the past two years. “The selectmen and the town are in full support of our mission. Everyone in the community wants to help in any way they can, which is really amazing,” she said.
One volunteer, Amy Gavin, collected donations, handed out pink wristbands, and told people about the event. For Gavin and many others, the significance of Ladyfest and similar events is particularly important. “I am a domestic violence survivor, so this event is especially important for me,” Gavin said. “I feel such an overwhelming sense of support and compassion from this community tonight.”