KEY WEST, Florida Keys -- The 21st annual Womenfest, a celebration of all things female designed for lesbians and their friends, is set for Tuesday through Sunday, Sept. 4-9. Typically attracting several thousand women, the festival is to take place in America's southernmost island of Key West, renowned for its enthusiastic diversity.
The schedule overflows with events for sports-loving, party-loving attendees. Planned activities range from women-only watersports excursions and clothing-optional pool parties to a three-night film festival and a group commitment ceremony.
Scheduled highlights are to include a free concert by dance sensation Lori Michaels Saturday, Sept. 8. A veteran of performances at New York City's Madison Square Garden, the high-energy Michaels is to headline Womenfest's popular street fair and "Dancing on Duval" event in the 700 block of Key West's legendary Duval Street.
While Michaels' free concert is set for 7 p.m., the street fair is to enliven Duval's 700 and 800 blocks from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m.
After her Duval Street performance, Michaels and her dancers are to move inside to offer a sultry "Me and the Girls" club show during an event titled "Gurrlesque." For mature audiences only, the gala is to begin at 9 p.m. at Aqua Night Club, 711 Duval St.
Michaels is far from the festival's only starring attraction. Comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer, whose credits include appearances on "Politically Incorrect" and "The Late Show with David Letterman," is to share her wit with Womenfest audiences during two shows Friday, Sept. 7, at Key West's Tropic Cinema, 416 Eaton St. The curtain goes up at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., and tickets can be purchased at www.keystix.com
Daily throughout Womenfest, a hospitality suite is to be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Southernmost Hotel, 1319 Duval St. There participants can get festival information and merchandise as well as learn about current promotions.
On-the-water excursions are available to festival participants, showcasing the azure waters surrounding Key West. Among the standout offerings are women-only champagne sunset sails, a snorkeling and dolphin-watching trip, a sunset catamaran cruise with appetizers and live music, and a daylong "ultimate adventure" that includes snorkeling, jet skis, parasailing and more.
Womenfest also is to focus on the arts and the lively creative community to be found in Key West. A "Woman and Words" author reading and book signing is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5, at Voltaire Books, 330 Simonton St. A "Women on Film" festival is to present thought-provoking entertainment Tuesday through Thursday evenings at the island city's popular Tropic Cinema. The featured films are to include "The Gymnast," winner of 19 international festival awards.
A new Womenfest event is to feature guest speakers in both sports and the arts. "Women Speak" panel discussions and luncheons are scheduled at Camille's Restaurant, 1202 Simonton St., beginning at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 5 and 6.
Festival attendees can tee off for a good cause Friday, Sept. 7, during the annual Southernmost Women's Invitational Nonprofit Golf Tournament at the Key West Golf Club, 6450 College Road. Check-in is scheduled to begin at 7:15 a.m., with an 8:15 a.m. shotgun start. The best-ball tournament benefits WomanKind Inc., which provides healthcare for women in the Florida Keys. Women can register through Sept. 3 by calling (305) 294-4004.
The following morning, the focus is on a trolley tour showcasing the history, contributions and landmarks associated with Key West's flourishing gay and lesbian community. The entertaining 70-minute excursion is to depart from 510 South St. at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8. For ticketing information, call (305) 294-4603.
For any festival visitors considering permanent relocation to Key West, a Sunday afternoon open house series offers an insiders' look at some of the island's most appealing homes for sale. Sponsored by a coalition of female realtors, the VIP viewing includes transportation via a chartered trolley.
Women who want to celebrate and formalize their partnerships during Womenfest can do so at a group commitment ceremony and champagne brunch set for 1 p.m. Sunday at Pearl's Rainbow, 525 United St. A certificate of union is provided, and the services of a photographer are available to capture lasting images of the ceremony. For more information, cost per couple and registration, call (305) 292-1450.
Womenfest is presented by the Key West Business Guild, the United States' oldest gay-oriented chamber of commerce-type business organization.
For festival information including event prices, ticketing and lodging packages, visit www.womenfest.com
or call the Key West Business Guild at (305) 294-4603. Lodging information also can be found at the Keys Web site at www.fla-keys.com