June Bunch, a co-host of the event, sings during the open mic event Thursday night as part of the Crystal Saloon BABEFEST series. Bunch also shared her singing chops during the Wednesday night “Tribute to Joni Mitchell.” (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

June Bunch, a co-host of the event, sings during the open mic event Thursday night as part of the Crystal Saloon BABEFEST series. Bunch also shared her singing chops during the Wednesday night “Tribute to Joni Mitchell.” (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

BABEFEST comes to Juneau

The four-night series features local artists and celebrates the many “babes” here in capital city

There are a lot of babes in Juneau. And a new event wants to celebrate them all.

A congregation of Juneau “babes” gathered Thursday night to enjoy the sweet serenades of their peers and other bar patrons participating in the open mic event at the Crystal Saloon center stage along with the makers market in the back portion of the saloon.

The night’s festivities were a part of BABEFEST, a four-night series — which started Wednesday night and will run until Saturday night — hosted at the downtown Crystal Saloon. The event’s goal is to honor both local and legendary “babes” right here in Juneau, said Taylor Vidic, the Crystal Saloon stage and marketing manager and organizer of the event.

From instrumental guitar solos to emotional melodies written by local singers and songwriters, the stage cycled through a wide range of tunes throughout the three-hour-long set.

While the music continuously played, ambient chatter came from the back of the saloon as people walked around to catch the handful of artists with booths set up featuring their work. The makers market featured local artists Lily Hope, Natalie Weinberg, Harper Joy Gunn, Unuswear, GloInc, Dita Devi and ReccaShay Crafts.

Harper Joy Gunn stands surrounded by her artwork at the entrance of the makers market. The BABEFEST series spans four nights at the crystal saloon and features local artists and musicians. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Harper Joy Gunn stands surrounded by her artwork at the entrance of the makers market. The BABEFEST series spans four nights at the crystal saloon and features local artists and musicians. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

From the live painting of a nude figure to tiny pink and red crochet uteruses, there was no shortage of body-positive and feminine-focused artwork across all means of creative expression to celebrate what it means to be a “babe” — which means “whatever you feel it means to you,” Vidic said.

Local artist Dita Devi spent time throughout the night painting a large piece on display for event-goers to watch. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Local artist Dita Devi spent time throughout the night painting a large piece on display for event-goers to watch. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Natalie Weinberg, an artist whose work was highlighted at the makers’ market, said her illustrations are largely focused on body positivity and celebrate the diversity of people as who they are.

Natalie Weinberg smiles while talking with an attendee at the Crystal Saloon Thursday evening open mic and market a part of the BABEFEST series. Weinberg and other local artists lined the back portion of the saloon to feature and sell their work. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Natalie Weinberg smiles while talking with an attendee at the Crystal Saloon Thursday evening open mic and market a part of the BABEFEST series. Weinberg and other local artists lined the back portion of the saloon to feature and sell their work. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

“It’s about having more control of who you are and to rewrite the narrative to be more expansive instead of being what we are told,” she said. “It’s about taking up space as the universe intended you to.”

Her art spanned different mediums and featured bold color bodies intertwined with different elements of nature, which she said symbolizes how people mirror the universe around them.

Vidic said the series so far has been surpassing her expectations for the number of people coming to participate and watch the showings. Vidic said she originally got the idea for BABEFEST after organizing a similar series in Skagway for multiple years. She said this is the first time the series has been hosted in Juneau and it’s been greeted very well so far by attendees.

“We’re trying to make these not only stage shows, but immersive experiences,” she said. “We hope this inspires folks to keep creating and in turn share that creation with the public.”

She said there’s more to come too as the event spans into the weekend. The beginning of the series originally kicked off Wednesday evening with a tribute to the iconic artist Joni Mitchell, followed by Thursday night’s open mic and markers market, continued by the highly anticipated and sold-out Friday showing of “The Vagina Monologues” by Eve Ensler and will close on Saturday with performances from multiple artists for “Babes & Their Ballads.”

Vidic said the event is also about raising awareness for sexual health, emotional health and self-care — which resources availiable at tables each night — and 50% of the proceeds from Friday night’s “The Vagina Monologues” will go toward organizations aiming to protect reproductive rights. There is also a “pay-what-you-can” option for people to pay the artists featured at the events.

Know & Go

What: BABEFEST

When: “The Vagina Monologue,” Friday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. “Babes & Their Ballads.” Saturday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m.

Where: The Crystal Saloon

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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