Five Years Later, Buzzing Louder

Krista Connor

Ladybug Music Festival, the annual downtown block party celebrating women in music, is back July 21 with national headliner, local favorites and more

Thursday, July 21, will mark five years since the formation of Market Street’s biggest annual—and notably, free—block party, Ladybug Music Festival, celebrating women in music.

Event organizers Jeremy Hebbel and Gayle Dillman, also founders of Wilmington music promotional company Gable Music Ventures, haven’t slowed down, even in this anniversary year. They’re focusing on how they can make the event better, both this year and in the future, while maintaining aspects of its grassroots origins.

Says Hebbel: “Ladybug has grown exponentially, but we’re still going to do what we did the first year—walk up and down Market Street passing out thousands of flyers telling people to come out. We’ve grown, but haven’t changed.”

In fact, Hebbel has announced that next year Ladybug will be a two-day event, also featuring artist panels along Market Street. And within the next decade or two, Hebbel envisions a city-wide Thursday-to-Sunday festival, stretching from the Riverfront to Market Street, Trolley Square to the West End.

The festival, branching outward from 2nd & LOMA, has doubled in attendance each year, according to partnering group Downtown Visions. Hebbel is hoping for a crowd of 4,000 to 6,000 this year, drawn to see Burlington, Vt., headliner Caroline Rose and nearly 50 other female performers.

Area artists include Joy Ike, Nalani and Sarina and Alex Voegele, while national jazz favorites — Royal & Toulouse, Sharon Sable and Vanessa Collier — will have their very own jazz stage this year. And back by popular demand are the outdoor stages at 3rd & LOMA and Delaware Technical Community College’s courtyard. An additional stage at new Ladybug venue Bobbi Rhian’s Executive Lounge near 4th Street will also be set up. Other Market Street venues—Extreme Pizza, Zaikka, LOMA Coffee, and others—will host performances for the 5-10 p.m. festival.

As always, the event isn’t just a celebration of music. Eight food trucks—KOI on the go, Kapow, I Don’t Give a Fork, Wandering Chef, Wildwich and others—will be stationed throughout the festival. Upwards of 50 vendors will sell crafts, candles, jewelry, and more, and local artist Terrance Vann will do art demonstrations. Like last year, an outdoor bar sponsored by Yards will be in the center of festivities at 3rd Street (Cash only, and this year the bar includes a WSFS ATM).

As always, Ladybug flourishes from diversity. Artists ranging in age from 15 to 60 will play hip hop, rock, country and jazz.

This will mark the third appearance for area pop-soul-funk artist Joy Ike, and she is impressed by the event’s growth.

“It’s continually evolving and getting better—it’s exciting to have conversations with people over the course of the year and to see just how widely anticipated this event has become,” Ike says.

She praises Gable Music for doing “a stellar job” in smoothly running a festival, booking quality artists, rallying local businesses and organizations to be a part, and finding new ways to get the word out.

“Wilmington may not be considered a destination city by most people, but it is during the Ladybug Music Festival,” says Ike, who will perform at LOMA Coffee on festival day. She is spending the rest of her summer working on her next TBA album and playing the festival circuit.

Meanwhile, headliner Caroline Rose, a rockabilly artist backed by her four-piece band, says she’s most excited about one thing: “Seeing all the Ladybugs.”

While the fun factor is a no-brainer, Hebbel says economically and culturally the festival has a huge, positive, downtown impact. Last year, eateries saw three times the amount of business they’d typically experience on a busy day, let alone on a regular Thursday, Hebbel says.

Restaurants-turned-venues and every food truck ran out of food before the festival was over. Even Upper Market Street establishments like Ernest & Scott and Chelsea Tavern saw more business than usual.

“We’re taking an average day that would be slow, a Thursday, to bring thousands of people to shop,” Hebbel says. “At Ladybug, people come into downtown Wilmington to have a fun, safe experience to combat the idea that it’s a dangerous place—it creates another narrative, essentially.”

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