Mid West Music Fest
Women Performers Take the Stage

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Dreaming about spring fun during these cold winter days? One of Minnesota’s friendliest and most accessible music festivals takes place just 45 minutes away from Rochester, and this year’s lineup is absolutely stacked with stellar female performers. Mid West Music Fest (MWMF) was created in 2009 by Sam Brown and has now grown into a full-fledged, multi-weekend festival featuring hundreds of performers. Previous headliners include Lizzo, Dessa, Caroline Smith, Chastity Brown and Nur-D, with many new acts rotating through each year. The festival is truly a launching pad for up-and-coming talent in Minnesota and Wisconsin.


Like most live entertainment, MWMF was hit hard by the pandemic, and the team of paid and volunteer staff worked quickly to pivot to a virtual program in 2020. In 2021 they planned much smaller, all outdoor events. This year the festival planners hope they can safely return to producing the full version of the festival.

Creative director and Rochester native Maggie Panetta admits that 2022 has already thrown some curveballs. “When we planned the first virtual iteration of the festival in 2020, there were just as many unknowns as there are now,” she says. But for Panetta and her partner and fellow creative director, Nate Nelson, “It’s been critical to remain open-minded and adapt the format in order to best give the artists a platform to perform. Mid West Music Fest has always celebrated our local musicians, and finding ways to make that happen safely was a challenge we tackled together.”

As Panetta, Nelson and new executive director Dylan Hilliker come together to plan what they hope will be a renewed and invigorated return to the full festival, we asked some of this year’s performers what bravery feels like to them in 2022. Here is what some of this year’s musicians said:

“I think true bravery isn’t what people think it is these days. It’s not some state of unflappability or complete lack of fear. True bravery is about facing fear, feeling terrified and still doing the damn thing anyway.” –Doc, who performs as Theyself

“Bravery in 2022 to me is looking in the mirror in the morning and reminding myself that I’ve got a hell of a lot more to do, a lot more to say and that it’s okay to do on my own time.” –Mae Simpson Music

“Functioning as women/queer artists and musicians in capitalism is bravery to us—working day jobs, performing unpaid labor, taking care of others and ourselves and then being creative in an industry that can be just as exploitative and exhausting. We have to constantly ground ourselves in why we want and NEED to create music. Finding joy and supporting your community in art is a brave and radical act!” –Laura Larson + Danielle Cusack of Scrunchies

“I feel most brave when I allow myself to be totally present—not beating myself up about the past or fearing the future, just here and now, fully embodied.”

–Annie Enneking of Annie and the Bang Bang

“To me bravery means embracing imperfection. To be brave is to be uncomfortable, to be vulnerable. I rarely feel strong when I am brave, but I know other people are given strength when I’m willing to step into that kind of discomfort.” –Meghan Kreidler of Kiss the Tiger

To learn more about these and other amazing performers, head over to midwestmusicfest.org and follow the festival on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The first weekend of MWMF will take place April 29-30 in Winona, and there will be a second weekend in La Crosse, Wisconsin on September 16-17. Tickets are currently on sale, and children 12 and under attend free. In addition to live music, the festivals feature art markets, food trucks, local beer and all the joys of Midwest river towns. ::

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About Author

Dr. Rosei Skipper is a psychiatrist, therapist, movement teacher, promoter and freelance writer. She is passionate about supporting her community and building a more just and inclusive world. She lives in Rochester with her partner Andrew and a very fluffy kitty named Freddie Mercury. She maintains the Rochester Women Magazine Facebook page.

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