The first annual Femmestival celebrates culinary, visual arts

One of the goals of Femmestival is to highlight women, nonbinary people who may fly under the radar.
Francesca Hong cooking in the kitchen
Francesca Hong, co-owner of Morris Ramen, is one of the organizers of the upcoming Femmestival festival at Garver Feed Mill. (Photo by Keni Rosales)

The first annual Femmestival festival, a celebration of culinary and visual arts, is happening Feb. 23 in the event space at Garver Feed Mill on Madison’s east side. A partnership between Madison’s Culinary Ladies Collective, Centro Hispano and Garver Events, one of the goals of Femmestival is to highlight women and nonbinary people who may fly under the radar of Madison’s food scene says Francesca Hong, co-owner of Morris Ramen and one of the founding members of the collective. “We want to carve out a space for folks who aren’t always represented,” Hong says.

Through Madison Gas and Electric’s partnerships and sponsorship, Femmestival is hoping to level the playing field and “encourage folks who might not always want to put themselves out there in a festival” by eliminating fees for vendors to be part of the event, Hong says. “Not having a vendor fee allows different people to participate.”

The festival, which takes place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will feature 20 food vendors and 10 artist vendors, is free to the public. Hong believes Femmestival can be an example for other events. “I’m hoping that people move forward with larger festivals thinking about how to put the vendors’ interests first and how that generates more revenue,” Hong says. “It’s also for the community because there is no entrance fee.”

A winter festival highlighting food and art has been a dream of Bethany Jurewicz, another of Femmestival’s organizers, for a couple of years. Jurewicz, who recently became the director of public programming and community outreach for Garver Events, also helped to organize the Makeshift Festivals in the summers of 2017 and 2018. Jurewicz believes winter is a great time to hold a festival because “there is no reason to compete with everything that happens in the summer.” When Jurewicz approached the Culinary Ladies Collective with the idea, Hong agreed. “[In winter] there can still be cool things going on,” Hong says.

And despite the event happening in the middle of winter, Femmestival-goers can expect lots of bright flavors from the event’s food vendors. Planned dishes include papaya salad, bahn mi sandwiches and samosas, Hong says. There will be familiar names and faces, including Molly Maciejewski (of Madison Sourdough Co.), Lauren Montelbano (of Surya Cafe) and Jamie Hoang (formerly of Sujeo,) and some festival newcomers including Sonya Sankaran of Kosa, an Ayurvedic wellness center inside Garver Feed Mill, and Lauralyn Rosenberger of Elemeno. Tickets for food, which are $5 each, can be purchased in advance to avoid lines at the door.

In addition to food, artist vendors will sell items including prints, wooden spoons and aprons. There will also be installations from three artists including Jennifer Bastian, one of the founders of Communication. As a mixed media artist, “we can expect to see an immersive experience from her,” Jurewicz says.

Hong is excited to see how people are rallying around Femmestival. “We can control some of the costs with resources that members in the [Culinary Ladies] collective have,” Hong says. “It’s really cool to see folks coming together to put this on knowing that it is working to be equitable.”