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Women in the Woods

It sounds more California than Florida, but this weekend Fort Lauderdale hosts Femme Fest: A Day of Music in Celebration of the Goddess.

It turns out Fort Lauderdale has the perfect locale: Secret Woods Nature Center, a stunningly gorgeous 55-acre, county-owned park hidden a stone's throw off I-95 and State Road 84. If you drive too fast, you'll miss the park entrance, which could be why it's such a secret.

Put together by the nature center's hippie impresarios Laurie Hale and "Bear," who also host a series of drumming circles, Sunday's event is a natural for the duo, even if they can't quite decide what to call it from one minute to the next. Some of the flyers are subtitled, "A Day of Music in Celebration of the Goddess." Others say, "In Celebration of Women." "We did both of them and handed them out randomly," Hale explains. "It means the same thing. I always think women are goddesses."

The goddesses and their friends will meet in a sanctuary that has been declared a Designated Urban Wilderness Area. Major features include an island, a butterfly area, cypress and maple wetlands, miles of boardwalk trails, the New River, a pond, mangroves, laurels, and an oak hammock.

As long as the weather holds, a tree-enclosed amphitheater will support the crux of the festival: a cast consisting entirely of local musicians ranging from traditional folk, rock, and acoustic to Native-American chants. And alternative. And jazz. Look for Valerie C. Wisecracker, an acoustic comedy banjo act; opera-rockers Noodles on Jupiter, the most creative name on the roster; Robyn Fear and Beverly McClellan, perhaps the most well known; as well as Linda Rain, Ginger, the Girlz, Maria Nofsinger, Linda Hushen, Gigi DeNisco, Altered Ego, Maya Veil, Matigal, Bette Beaumont, Sylvia, Paddy, and a closing set by Teri Catlin, who will release her first CD at the end of the day.

In addition to the music, expect tarot readings, massage therapy, related vendors, and of course, vegetarian cuisine. While men are welcome, it will be mostly an estrogen-filled afternoon, something like a local Lilith Fair.

For seven bucks, you get the music, the people, the nature, and the chance to browse and purchase among drums and percussion instruments; oils and incense; handcrafted dream catchers; homemade soap, jewelry, Renaissance clothing, and antiques; and massage, Reiki, and reflexology therapy. Part of the proceeds will go to the Friends of Secret Woods, who help keep the sanctuary going.

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Karen Dale Wolman

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