March 28, 2019 GMT

It’s become a tradition in Ludington to celebrate women’s empowerment every spring with the Ludrock’s annual Girls Rock concert.

This year’s event — set for 7 p.m. Saturday, April 6 at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts — is shaping up to be another successful year, according to Ludrock President Ed Santarelli.

With a lineup consisting of musicians, speakers, storytellers and even wrestlers, the performers are varied, including both newcomers and Girls Rock veterans.

Santarelli said the list of Girls Rock 2019 performers is brimming with talent, including Ms. Wheelchair Michigan 2016 Jamie Spore, who will return to emcee the event.

Spore is a perfect fit for Girls Rock, according to Santarelli.

“I’m stoked to have Jamie back … It’s just crazy the spirit she has,” he said. “She really embodies everything that Girls Rock is about.”

Spore said she’s thrilled to be a part of the event again as well, adding that Girls Rock is an important event for the community.

“It’s a celebration of the strong, amazing, talented women that we have in our community,” Spore said, adding that it will be entertaining for anyone who comes.

“By attending Girls Rock, people can obviously expect to be entertained,” she said. “Moreover, they can expect to be introduced to some of the amazing women in this community that they might not know.”

Santarelli agreed that there will be something for everyone at Girls Rock.

One of the acts he’s most excited for is Krista Dunn, a newcomer to the Girls Rock stage.

Dunn will tell the true story of the how she was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor that resulted in four brain surgeries.

Though the subject matter is serious — featuring detailed accounts of the multiple surgeries, hallucinations, feelings of anxiety and fear she experienced during her treatment and recovery — Dunn said she hopes to bring a comedic element to the story.

Laughter, she said, has been a therapeutic outlet for her, and something she hopes to share with attendees.

“Laughing has truly gotten me through this experience,” Dunn said. “While in the critical care units, I was laughing. Obviously, I would rather have not been there, but … laughter is something I use to process things.”

What began with visits to general practitioners and optometrists to investigate the cause of increasingly painful headaches about two years ago became a veritable life-or-death situation when doctors discovered the presence of a large tumor that had been growing for about 20 years, according to Dunn.

She said most of the tumor is gone, thanks to repeated surgeries and radiation treatment, but some of it remains.

Still, she maintains a hopeful and optimistic outlook. She said she thinks people will be able to relate to her story, and she hopes to encourage audience members to think positively.

“I think it’s one of those things that people can connect to, because everyone knows someone who’s been through a head trauma or something like this,” Dunn said. “We’re all going to face adversity at some point in our lives, and you can get through it.

“You don’t know you can get through it until you’re put in that situation, but you can and you will. So stay positive.”

Dunn first decided to tell her story in public at an open-mic night at the arts center a few weeks ago.

Santarelli saw the performance and said it was powerful, funny and relatable, and something he wanted to include in Girls Rock.

“It’s so heart-wrenching, but she was really clever about what she did … she got us all feeling (tense), and then she’d tell a joke and release us from that tension,” Santarelli said. “She’s going to be a highlight of the show for me.”

Spore said Girls Rock is not just about entertainment — it’s also about education and exposure to the work women are doing in Mason County.

“Attendees can expect to be educated about some of the wonderful organizations and projects we have in this community, such as the Zonta Club, as well as the PoWeR! Book Bags Project,” Spore said.

The Zonta Club of Ludington is sponsoring the event, which Santarelli said is also in keeping with the Girls Rock philosophy.

“We’re super happy to have (the Zontas) back as the sponsor, because that fits right in with our message of empowering women,” Santarelli said. “We couldn’t work without their sponsorship.”

The lineup

Dunn is not the only newcomer scheduled for this year’s event. The show will also feature 6-year-old competitive youth wrestler Diana Ottgen, who will be interviewed by Spore.

Ottgen will talk about her experience on the mats, and tell audience members about an upcoming live professional wrestling performance scheduled for Saturday, May 11 in the arts center’s performance hall.

Girls Rock will also feature Ludington High School senior Kaylie Wells, who recently performed in “Schoolhouse Rock Live, Too!” with the LHS Drama Club.

Other performers include Kraylee Ledger; Moms of Anarchy; Julie Sherlock; Davina Teal; Taylor Makowicki; The Miller Sisters (Mary and Nancy); Meredith Hanson; Michelle Hemmer; Carrie Rangel; Julie Rasgaitis; Micah McCullough; Nanette Scribner; Friendship Bench Project; PoWeR! Book Bags Project; Zonta Club of Ludington Area; Kara Gregory; Kara Rose; Marie Fay; and Yvonne Bess Jones.

“I am really excited to listen to all of our performers and speakers,” Spore said. “They all have a lot to offer this community.”

Girls Rock starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 6 at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts, 107 S. Harrison St.

The cost to attend is $2, and proceeds will go to continued improvements in the LACA performance hall, according to Santarelli.