Celebrating women: Ladybug Festival to bring thousands to downtown Milford this weekend

Milford’s ladybug-infused legacy flew to a new level last year when dozens of women-led music acts and thousands of visitors flooded the downtown area in late September.

Special to the Delaware State News/John Mollura

This year, Gable Music hopes the Ladybug Festival brings even more entertainment to the area Saturday, Sept. 21 with the help of more than 40 artists coming to Milford from as far as Canada, Connecticut and Nashville.

“Aside from the fact that it’s completely free to attend, the Ladybug Festival is unlike other music festivals because the artists that perform are unsigned, undiscovered artists. It’s where fans can come to discover and connect with artists before their careers take off,” Gayle Dillman, co-founder of the Ladybug Music Festival, said.

Streets in downtown Milford closed off to vehicular traffic will include portions of Walnut Street, Front Street and Park Avenue. The festival, which organizers say brought in 2,500–3,000 people last year, will begin at 3 p.m. as featured artists start their first sets from stages both in the streets and inside local stores. The rain date will be the following day, Sunday, Sept. 22.

Two main stages, one centered on Walnut Street at Park Avenue and another at the Milford Public Library Ampitheater, will serve as a middle point for the day filled with live entertainment. The festival will run until 9 p.m.

Special to the Delaware State News/John Mollura

According to Gable Music Ventures, local businesses to feature artists on site will include Dolce Bakery and Coffee Shop, Irish Rose, Mispillion Art League, My Sister’s Fault, the Music School of Delaware, Nancy’s Café and Park Place Restaurant & Lounge. Arena’s Milford, Causey Mansion B&B, Gallery 37-A Destination for Artful Living and Lifecycle will host artists outside. 

“This year we have two nationally known artists performing, Willow Hill, from Nashville will headline the main stage, and Rachael Sage, from New York City, will headline the Library Amphitheater. Willow Hill and Rachael Sage have both received national press and have approximately 40,000 followers between them on social media. Willow Hill is a husband and wife country pop artist, formerly known as Lovebettie, with a great following in our area. Rachael Sage is a record label owner, producer, and singer songwriter,” Ms. Dillman said.

Other notable performers this year include Hoochi Coochi, Nalani & Sarina, and Christine Havrilla, according to Gable Music.

This year’s event will be similar to the 2018 event with the exception of Riverfront Theater which will not be a venue due to a production inside that evening. The theater will host a bar outside, however, Ms. Dillman added.

“The newest addition to the festival that we’re very excited about is the Mispillion River Brewing Ladybug Rose Lager, which is brewed to celebrate women in music everywhere,” she said. “This year will have 41 acts at 13 locations. We have hundreds of artists that apply for consideration, it wasn’t hard to find them, but we spent a considerable amount of time listening to all the applicants and trying to find the artists that should perform at each event.”

Special to the Delaware State News/John Mollura

Although Milford’s Ladybug Music Festival is in its second year, Gable Music Ventures started the Ladybug Music Festival in Wilmington in 2012. Attendance at the event in Wilmington went from about 300 to approximately 10,000 visitors in 2017 when they added a second day to keep up with the excitement.

“Milford’s event is several years behind the Wilmington flagship event, so there are considerably less artists that perform, and it’s only a one-day event at this point,” Ms. Dillman said. “The reactions from both artists and attendees was that was an awesome addition for us. So many attendees and artists had never been to Milford and found it to be an incredibly beautiful and charming downtown area. It’s a very different vibe from Wilmington which is an urban block party, but that’s what we were looking for, and we found the response to the event to be heartwarming and inspirational.”

Behind the scenes, she and fellow co-founder Jeremy Hebbel, spend six-eight months working on the festival. Downtown Milford, Inc. has also been crucial in helping to bring the festival to the area.

“We’re excited to bring the Ladybug Music Festival back to Downtown Milford,” DMI Board Member and co-chair of the festival Sara Pletcher said. “Last year we saw so many new faces walking our streets, enjoying our stores and restaurants and relishing in the free entertainment. It was a great day to be a Milfordian, and I can’t wait to see our city shine once again!”

Volunteers are helpful, both groups added. More information about volunteering or about the event itself can be found online at www.theladybugfestival.com or www.downtownmilford.org.

“It’s so incredibly exciting. Being able to bring artists from all over the country together . . . to an event that has thousands in attendance, is rare in our business. Since the event has a built in following, we are able to hire artists that are completely unknown in Delaware and introduce them for the first time to our awesome audience. We get to help amazing artists like Nalani & Sarina build a huge fan base in a state that’s two hours from their hometown of Flemmington, New Jersey,” Ms. Dillman said. “Since the event is free to attend, our fans are extremely loyal and supportive, the artists have amazing experiences, and it’s truly one of the most rewarding experiences any of us have had. However, we spend all year long working on these two events, and they are over in a matter of hours. There’s always a few days of feeling a bit sad that they are behind us. We are so fortunate to be able to put on this event, and so grateful for Downtown Milford Inc. and all of the sponsors that provide the funds to make it possible.”

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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