"Sisterfire" -- a two-day, open-air women's festival of music, song, dance, poetry and politics that is expected to draw a crowd of more than 5,000 people -- is shifting from its traditional site in the District to a rural Upper Marlboro setting this weekend.
Roadwork, the nonprofit group that produces the event as a promotion of feminist and human rights concerns, moved the fifth annual rally to the Equestrian Center. Officials said the shift was needed primarily because they could not find an affordable outdoor facility in the District big enough to accommodate the growing crowd of supporters.
"In the first four years, the concert grew at an enormous rate, from a one-day festival with eight artists and one stage, to a two-day event with over 80 performers and four stages," said Amy Horwitz, founder and chairwoman of Roadwork, which sponsors smaller arts events through the year. "We've grown out of a neighborhood-size event into something much bigger."
In the past, the festival has been held at the Takoma Park High School football field in the District. But that site's problems included limited parking and a District public park law that prohibits organizers from charging admission prices of $19 for one day and $30 for both days of activities. Horwitz said that because Sisterfire is Roadwork's main fund-raising event, "we had to consider alternatives."
The 13-acre Equestrian Center has five stages and parking facilities capable of holding about 1,000 cars. "We've gotten tremendous support from the community and the county. We hope to be able to move the concert back into the city, but we have to find a place that is suitable," Horwitz said.
Despite the festival's urban orientation, organizers said they are confident the new location will be a success, and that their following, mostly women, will go the distance.
"We're expecting a huge showing this year because people are even more excited" since the festival was not held last year, said general coordinator Penny Rosenwasser.
Free shuttle buses will provide transportation from the Addison Road subway station to the Equestrian Center for the festivities, which run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Horwitz said advance ticket sales are outpacing those of past years.
Sisterfire organizers say it is the only progressive women's cultural festival in the country near an urban environment, showcasing cross-cultural, multiethnic entertainment. The women artists range from diversified musical groups to comedians, dance troupes, filmmakers and poets from around the world.
Featured performers include the classical Japanese koto player "We are a voice that has been left out of history books, and we're attempting to document our own existence in history."
-- Amy Horwitz
Kyoko Okamoto and the Women's Chamber Music society.
Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winner and author of the best-selling book "The Color Purple," is scheduled to do several readings from her new poetry book and to perform with the local women's a capella quintet, Sweet Honey and the Rock.
Activities for children and the deaf are planned, including a new three-hour block of programming devoted to cultural expression for and by the deaf.
A $5,000 grant from the D.C. Commission on Arts and Humanities will help defray costs of production, but Horwitz said organizers rely heavily on more than 100 volunteers, known as "Sistersparks," for the concert's success.
"We have women and men who are doctors, lawyers, nurses, housewives and even students who majored in some field in college and never got a chance to use their skills. We provide that kind of opportunity," Rosenwasser said.
Although not exclusive to women, Horwitz said, Roadwork "is committed to presenting a forum for women. We are a voice that has been left out of history books, and we're attempting to document our own existence in history."