AE Interview with Mariah Hanson, Founder of The Dinah Shore Weekend

photo: Club Skirts The Dinah
photo: Club Skirts The Dinah

Dinah Shore weekend is upon us, and I have a confession to make. A shameful confession, in fact. I have never been to The Dinah. It’s true. I, Memoree Joelle, Lesbian-in-Chief, have never been to the biggest girl party and lesbian music festival in the world. But that is about to change.  I am headed to Palm Springs on March 29th with a member of the AfterEllen writing crew, and will finally experience this rite of lesbian passage. To prepare, I decided to call up the founder of Dinah Shore Weekend herself, Mariah Hanson. This is what she had to say about this year’s event, what makes The Dinah unique, why she’s proud to declare it a space for lesbians, and her tips for first timers.

AE: You founded Dinah Shore weekend back in 1991, and for many lesbians it has become not just a fun five-day party, but a kind of rite of passage. How have you managed to attract so many women to the event over the years (of all ages!) and maintain that level of energy?

MH: Every year, my team and I aspire to creating an even better Dinah than the one before. We are the measure of our own yardstick and so the event just gets bigger every year.  We learn every year what works and what doesn’t anymore, and we fine tune the event constantly.  It also helps that we produce the event in Palm Springs which is the perfect playground for The Dinah, with perfect weather, a welcoming city vibe, and hotels that love the group. And our customers take over the stage we create and they breathe life into the event in a way all the planning in the world could not duplicate.

Mariah Hanson (in green) with the entire Dinah staff and crew. Photo courtesy of Club Skirts The Dinah
Marish Hanson (in green) with the entire Dinah staff and crew. Photo courtesy of Club Skirts The Dinah

AE: Many lesbian bars and venues have closed, especially in the last ten years. How do you feel about the importance of lesbian spaces and lesbian community?

MH: Lesbian event spaces are more important than ever. We are living in uncertain times and so the need to congregate and create unity and solidarity becomes critical to the life of our community.   We need to let our hair down and brush off the stress of national events, but this year we are also introducing an activist element to The Dinah. We are working with NCLR to make an important statement at the end of the weekend. Our voices will be heard.

AE: Lesbians often experience the issue of our spaces eventually becoming filled with men. How have you kept Dinah a predominately women’s event ?

MH: Men attend The Dinah, but we are lucky in that they have remained respectful of the need for a lesbian space.  Interestingly, it’s usually a  lesbian who brings the men.  Some have best friends that are men and want them to share in the celebration and we think that’s alright.  In 27 years it’s never been a huge problem for us, but we also proudly proclaim our identity as a space for lesbians, and that sets up tacit boundaries I suppose.

AE: In light of our political atmosphere, do you expect Dinah 2017 to come with a renewed energy? What will be different?

MH: I think it is going to be one of our largest as we need a break from the madness of this administration.  So we are selling record numbers of tickets, and we are offering a political bent at the end of the weekend. It is key that we make a massive statement of unity and solidarity with all communities faced with a government that is threatening many of of our rights.

AE: It looks like you have some interesting talent appearing this year, like CeCe Peniston and Black Box. They are known for their 90’s dance club music, which sounds like this year will be a lot of fun! I’m a nineties girl at heart, having grown up in that decade so I’m excited about this. Is this an overall part of celebrating the original roots of Dinah Shore Weekend?

MH: It’s celebrating women who have broken glass ceilings and all of our artists have, in one way or another, done exactly that.  We want to make a statement about women empowerment, that our voices are as strong as ever, that our dreams are within reach, as long as we move forward with the strength of our convictions that as women we are equal to men. We at The Dinah are saying, yeah we just experienced a huge political set back  but our lives are unstoppable.  Women will continue to break through the glass ceilings and one day, one of us will sit in that seat of penultimate political power and when that happens, what an even more amazing country we will become.  Women rule!

photo: Club Skirts The Dinah
photo: Club Skirts The Dinah

AE: Who are a few of this year’s performers and appearances we can look forward to?

MH: All of them.  This year each performance is going to be a show stopper.  We’re really excited, but if you are looking for our pick of the next big thing we think Lizzo performing on Sunday is a must see as well as the mysterious group FHB.  And Tish Hyman too.

AE: What are you most looking forward to about this year’s event?

MH: Sunday at 5 pm when I go on stage with Kate Kendell of NCLR and introduce another aspect to The Dinah that will create another incredible arm of this event – one that uplifts and provides support for our community.  We’ve always done this, but not in the way I will on Sunday with Kate.  It’s time, and we are excited too!

AE: I have to admit that even though I’m in my thirties, this will be my very first Dinah experience. What is your advice for first time attendees?

MH: Pace yourself.  The events are amazing and empowering, so try and get to them all. And that means sleeping at least a few hours a night and drinking lots of water. Oh, and bring lots of sun screen!

Tickets are going fast, so head over to The Dinah website to purchase tickets, check out the full line-up of musical acts, DJ’s, and celebrity appearances, and plan your trip to Palm Springs!