REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. — Recent years in Rehoboth Beach, Del., have seen the growth of an active lesbian community as more and more lesbian couples and singles retire or spend their summer weekends here.
“Not only do we have lesbian clubs such as Rehoboth Ale House, the Pond (formerly the Frogg Pond) and Seafood Shack, among others, but we are also active in civic and political organizations,” says lesbian resident Betty Deacon.
Claire Snyder-Hall, founder of the Rachel Maddow Club, a lesbian club that discusses political issues, says, “There is an incredible difference my partner and I have noticed since 10 years ago, when there was absolutely no place for lesbians to go.” She attributes part of that growth to the Women’s FEST, which is back this weekend for its 13th year. On Thursday night, a “welcome party” disco dance was scheduled at the Atlantic Sands Hotel. Festivities continue through Sunday.
The event, which attracts between 2,000-2,500 people, is considered the largest women’s festival in the mid-Atlantic region. Not only does it feature nationally known entertainment, but numerous workshops, ranging from information on lesbian travel presented by Olivia Vacations, to writing your coming out story presented by lesbian author and Rehoboth Beach resident, Fay Jacobs, who chaired the event for three years and says current chairs Patti Burke and Sharon Miken and “about 10 others are working like dogs.”
Jacobs says Women’s FEST is “enormous” and “the premier women’s event in the region. We’re kind of unofficially second to Provincetown with their women’s week.” She guesses about a third to half of those who attend each year are from out of town.
According to Mickie McManamon, administrative assistant at CAMP Rehoboth, the sponsor of the conference, “This year’s event will focus on outdoor health activities, including a walking tour of Rehoboth, a golf outing and tips on RVing.”
Several lesbian performers will be heard during the FEST, including singer and songwriters Viki Dee and Christine Havrill and comedian Vickie Shaw. Country singer and lesbian Chely Wright had been scheduled but due to the impending birth of her twin sons had to cancel as her doctor put her on bed rest. Lesbian comedian Kate Clinton will fill in at tonight’s show.
“The good news is not only that Kate was available, but that she loves Rehoboth Beach so much, she looked forward to performing here again,” McManamon says.
Jacobs admits the last-minute cancellation — relatively speaking — threw organizers for a loop.
“It was insane,” she says. “We found out about Chely about noon last Wednesday but we had some people with some personal connections to Kate. She’s been here before, you know. She heard about it through our connections and said she’d come and bail us out. It was amazingly lovely. She’s a special person.”
Clinton will perform material from her current show, the “Sis-Boom-Bah Tour.”
Tickets are available for individual events or the whole FEST with prices ranging from $15 to $65 and can be purchased from CAMP Rehoboth at 302-227-5620 or online at camprehoboth.com.