Annual Ladybug Festival showcases women and Wilmington

It was an exciting moment for Delaware seven years ago when Red Frog Entertainment announced that its Firefly Music Festival would take place in Dover. It was a chance to attract people from all over the country to celebrate our small state and enjoy some high-profile artists.

But it wasn’t an exciting day for everyone. Local artists quickly saw that very few of them would be included in the lineup, and even fewer female artists were scheduled to perform. What’s more, tickets were higher than expected, making Firefly a pricey option for fans of the Delaware music scene.

Then the Ladybug Music Festival made its debut on July 19, 2012— the day before Firefly. Staged in the 2nd and LOMA neighborhood, this Wilmington festival featured local artists and invited the public out to enjoy the music free of charge. And true to its name, Ladybug featured an all-female lineup, thus addressing the underrepresentation of women typified by Firefly and other concerts.

“We realized back then that there was really nothing that showcased women exclusively,” says Gayle Dillman, co-creator of Ladybug. “Women are parts of lineups but typically they are no more than 20 percent of the lineup; we want to change that.” Dillman and her business partner, Jeremy Hebble, of Gable Music Ventures, are proud to say that even the Ladybug staff is 70 percent female, including music and sound technicians.

This summer, Ladybug (the official state bug of Delaware, incidentally) returns to Market Street with two days of music featuring more than 100 artists. From 5 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, July 18, in the LOMA section, musicians will perform on two large outdoor stages and a number of indoor venues along the block. Throughout the evening, you can wander from concert to concert while enjoying local food trucks, art vendors and beverage stations.

The following night, Friday, July 19, from 5 p.m. to midnight, Gable Music Ventures will present the “Bug Crawl,” a spin on a classic bar crawl. Performances will take place across 15 venues from Chicky’s Pizza Pub to the Hotel duPont on North Market Street.

Since 2012, Ladybug has enjoyed impressive growth. Starting with a crowd of about 300 in an indoor venue, it has expanded to an outdoor, two-day event, drawing more than 10,000 people from all over the U.S. This year, the festival is partnering with Stitch House Brewery and Mispillion to feature its very own craft beer, the Ladybug Rosé Lager.

With Ladybug’s popularity on the rise, Gable Music Ventures is looking to showcase artists from outside Delaware as well. “We’ll always keep a local flavor to it, because it’s important to keep our roots in Delaware, but as we continue to grow, we are looking to reach further [across] the United States to bring people in,” says Dillman. In addition to some of the First State’s most popular female performers, this year’s lineup includes Jessica Latshaw from Boston, Aubrey Haddard from Massachusetts, and Alex Allegra from Tennessee.

Ladybug is much more than a free alternative to Firefly. It has become the largest festival in the United States that showcases only female artists. “I’m very proud of the fact that myself and my team are really leading the change for festivals,” says Dillman. “If I can say that I will have 100 percent women, there is no reason why other festivals can’t have more than 50 percent. And it’s happening in Delaware, of all places.”

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