Lounging by the lake
PrideFest hosts Wom!nz Spot Lounge and Café

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Mandy Cappleman

 A new lounge is opening in Milwaukee – an intimate space with an impressive entertainment lineup.

The open sign goes up June 8. And it comes down June 10.

The Wom!nz Spot Lounge and Cafe is a new, 25th anniversary amenity for PrideFest. Organizers invite festivalgoers to stroll toward the south end of the festival grounds, take the stairs or elevator to the second level and relax in an open-air space with a hoppy brew in the lounge or a coffee brew in the cafe while listening to an acoustic set or a poetry reading, watching a dance performance or visiting with women artists and activists.

In the volunteer-staffed lounge, the menu includes bottled water, soda pop, beer and wine. Tips benefit the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center.

The cafe offerings include coffee, tea, H2O, cookies and scones provided by Bella Caffe. Also on the café menu are the Soup Market’s vegetarian tomato bisque, African peanut and chicken soup and chicken dumpling soup.

PrideFest board member and women’s outreach director Stephanie A. Knuteson says Wom!nz Spot was designed by women for women.

But, she stresses, Wom!nz Spot is not a separatist stronghold. “It’s a space accepting of all,” Knuteson says. “We’re not segregating ourselves. ...The premise is this is a women’s space, a place celebrating women’s culture and women artists. And we’re saying, if you want to celebrate that with us, you are welcome.”

PrideFest president Scott Gunkel adds, “while  the area is built around women, it is not gender exclusive – men are more than welcome to attend. Matter of fact, I encourage men to be part of this experience, you just might learn a thing or two.”

Knuteson, a former board member at the community center, joined the PrideFest board in September, when organizers were reviewing a community survey. “We were seeing that a lot of women are attending the festival and finding that there aren’t a whole lot of things to do,” Knuteson says. “We took notice.”

She suggested the women’s space and the concept quickly caught on – with both the PrideFest committee and the community. Within 36 hours of a shout-out to women artists, the weekend schedule was filled.

The cafe will feature an open mic for spoken word, discussions on wide-ranging issues, performances by the NomadicLIMBS dancer Troupe, women’s Voices Milwaukee and a showcase for Riverwest artists. Lounge performers include LeAnna Eden, BrewCity Boiz and Babez, Lezy Desy, Annie B., The Dots, Jude Kinnear, 2 Girlz, V-Squared, Roxie Beane, Miltown Kings, Jennifer Cintron Cuevas, Lisa Ridgely, Mandy Cappleman and Big Bad Gina, who’s performing an acoustic show.

In booking performers – all of them are volunteering their time – there was a focus on local and regional talent, says Knuteson, who was Wisconsin-raised. There also was a focus on bringing new voices and faces to PrideFest, such as BrewCity Boiz and Roxie Beane, an acoustic funk-rock artist who has a strong Milwaukee following but has never performed at PrideFest.

While she probably won’t be lounging, Knuteson is likely to spend much of the event in Wom!nz Spot Lounge and Cafe with misty Jaeschke, her partner.

An effort has been made to create a family-friendly environment, says Knuteson, who with Jaeschke is raising two teenagers.

She also promises a space that appeals to young LGBT Pride-goers and where newcomers to PrideFest are encouraged to get involved.

Volunteers, Knuteson says, are needed for the weekend, but also for post-PrideFest, as Wom!nz Spot supporters plan for pride 2013 and organize other events – maybe a picnic, maybe a concert. In the survey that led to PrideFest sponsoring Wom!nz Spot, women expressed a desire for more activities year ’round.