DILWORTH, Minn. — Like just about every other concert over the last 11 months, this year’s Celebration of Women and Their Music is going online. Only performers, show producers and select VIPs will be at TAK Music Venue in Dilworth when musicians take the stage Saturday night, Feb. 20.
While concert organizer Deb Jenkins would rather play to a full house, she's taking the format change in stride.
“Livestreaming is probably the best thing COVID has given us,” she says with a laugh.
For her, livestreaming the show isn’t just playing it safe in terms of health during the coronavirus pandemic. Producing the show digitally means she doesn’t have to deal with Mother Nature snowing on her parade of female artists.
Last year, the main show was scheduled for the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre's Stage at Island Park, but two months before taking the stage, the theater was condemned after heavy snow revealed structural damage to the roof. The big gig was moved to the Spirit Room in downtown Fargo, but that show was ultimately canceled due to a winter storm.
All of which made Jenkins even more resolute that the show must go on, even in a pandemic.
“We’ve got to stay relevant. We’re going to do a show no matter what,” she said recently while running errands. “We didn’t want to disappear. It’s hard to stay relevant and exciting.”
Twenty-four years in, the goal of the annual Celebration of Women and Their Music is as relevant as ever. The mission has always been to support young female artists, give them exposure and offer them scholarships and mentorships to women who have paved the way to the stage before them.
Last year’s cancellation of the mainstage show means award winners didn’t get their time to shine, so Saturday’s concert will feature honorees from 2020 — Madison Hokstad, Janey Hudson, Sydney Quibell and Faith Weibye — and ’21 —Brianna Borgen, Hannah Leiseth and Stella Peterson — making up about three-fourths of the show.
In addition to the emerging voices, the fan-favorite aspect of the show is the conclusion featuring as many as 30 performers singing the event’s anthem, “One Spirit.”
Last year, a performance was wiped out by weather. This year, Jenkins says the tune will return, but with fewer performers — about 11 — to allow for safe social distancing on the stage.
“That’s going to be more important than ever,” she says. “The lyrics and spirit of the song are so important to what we do.”
The number was written by Nita Velo, with five different verses to be sung by different women as well as a crowd singalong.
“Who would’ve known 24 years ago, sitting in the Full Circle Cafe with Nita Velo, we’d be here now,” Jenkins says.
The show started with those roots at Jenkins’ former eatery but quickly moved to the Fargo Theatre, which hosted the show for 20 years before Jenkins downsized to the FMCT venue in 2018.
While the event gets lots of help from female volunteers, one male presence will be missed this year. Longtime KFGO personality and arts booster Bob Harris died in December from COVID-19.
“Not to be sad, losing Bob Harris is huge. He was such a big supporter. He attended all of the house shows even,” Jenkins says, adding that he will be acknowledged in the show’s program.
While this year’s event will mostly play out on the small screen, she sees an opportunity for bigger audiences thanks to streaming the show. She knows of people from Australia that will tune in, as well as folks from all across the country.
Jenkins says she hasn’t started planning much for next year’s event, the 25th Celebration of Women and Their Music, but says if nothing else, at least she knows the show will go on, online.
“I hope and pray venues can open back up so people can get back to live shows and theater,” she says. “Not just for us and this show, but for everyone.”
If you go
What: Celebration of Women and Their Music
When: 6-10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20
Where: online; search Eventbrite for Celebration of Women and Their Music
Info: Tickets are $15