Annual Womenfest presents opportunity
for women to learn, connect
The time has come again for hundreds of exuberant women –
and some curious men – to come together at Womenfest. The
annual event, hosted by the Women’s Resource Center, will
take place at Durango High School on Saturday, Oct. 26, and features
53 workshops, 30 booths sponsored by local businesses and nonprofits,
three keynote speakers, entertainment and prizes.
This year’s theme is “Pebble
in a Pond – Small Things Make a Big Difference.”
“I hope all women come out for Womenfest,”
said Jennifer Gay, executive director of the Women’s Resource
Center. “It’s a chance for women from different walks
of life and all ages to have fun and learn some new things as
Tracy Korb, membership and communications
coordinator at the center, said the event could not occur without
the help of numerous volunteers and women hosting booths –
many of whom have received help from the Women’s Resource
Center in the past.
“It’s wonderful to see them keeping
contact with the Women’s Resource Center through Womenfest,”
One such person is Heather Leavitt, who designed
this year’s Womenfest program. In 1999, Leavitt started
a handmade soap business, My Mother’s Soap Co., with Michelle
Parker, after attending the center’s Ready Set Go workshops
geared toward women starting small businesses. The soap company
also donated samples to Womenfest for door prizes.
is not the only fan of the event. Each year, Leavitt’s mother
drives a vanload of women from Leavenworth, Kansas, to attend
“You have that many women in a room,
and you don’t even need a topic – something magical
just happens,” Leavitt said. “I think sometimes we
forget, and it’s a nice reminder.”
But Korb stresses that Womenfest is not as
“touchy-feely” as some might think.
“The perception has been 85 that a conference for women
will be only spiritual in nature, but Womenfest isn’t about
that,” Korb said. “It’s a chance to connect
and learn about a variety of different things.”
Durango Mayor Pro Tem Virginia Castro, a
keynote speaker at last year’s Womenfest, agreed that the
variety of workshops is important.
“I don’t know where else you
can do everything from belly dancing to learning about an exotic
religion to managing your money,” Castro said. “One
of the neatest things about it is there’s such a diversity
of strong women in this community, and at Womenfest you get a
chance to get a taste of that diversity and their strength.”
Robin Duffy-Wirth, who is co-teaching a fitness
workshop entitled “A Nice Butt Doesn’t Make You Live
Longer,” said she wanted to get involved because she has
“grown” from previous Womenfest experiences and always
wanted to give something back in return.
She said she is teaching the workshop because
people need to take a realistic approach to fitness. Instead of
worrying about having a shapely figure, it is more important to
have a body that will allow you to do things like snowboard with
your kids, she said.
“What happens is, we compare our butts
to 20-year-old butts, and our butts have been on this planet longer,”
Other workshops range from “Elevator
Speech: 60 Seconds to Success” and “Introduction to
Genealogical Research” to “Celebrating Living, Local
and Wild Foods” and “Yoga for Hips, Knees and Feet.”
But in addition to the workshops, booths
and entertainment, Gay said she is looking forward to hearing
the keynote speakers, all local women, which include author and
activist Nancy Jacques; M.B. McAfee and Rose Chilcoat of Great
Old Broads for Wilderness; and Marti Bourjaily, a cancer survivor
and organizer of the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.
“I’m really excited to listen
to the keynote speakers because they are women in the community
who are making a difference on issues that are really important
to them,” Gay said. “And they have a lot of wisdom
to share with us.”
Gena Castle, a Fort Lewis College senior,
said she is looking forward to her first Womenfest and hopes to
get the word out at the school by hanging posters, running a booth
in the C.U.B. and talking to other students.
“I think a lot of students don’t
know the Women’s Resource Center exists,” Castle said.
“I just think it’s important to be involved.”
In contrast, Tekla Miller, a Durango writer,
has attended every Womenfest since it began seven years ago. In
fact, she brought the idea for the conference from Michigan to
“It was a remarkable beginning and
continues to grow and become more remarkable every year,”
Miller said. “Each year it gets better and each year gets
more people – and men. Not just men attending but men presenting.”
Korb said that because this year marks the
15th anniversary of the Women’s Resource Center, the “Pebble
in a Pond” theme is particularly relevant.
“(The Women’s Resource Center)
is the classic example of pebble in a pond: 15 years ago a handful
of women came up with this idea for a center and now today we
serve over 10,000 people a year and have over 400 members,”
Korb said. “It’s a community center, and without the
support of the community we wouldn’t be here.