Southwest Detroit creatives host a free festival at Senate Theater

SW Fest 2021: “This is not the butterfly stage, it’s the caterpillar stage”

Camilla-Isabella Cantu, SW Fest performer
Camilla-Isabella Cantu, SW Fest performer (WDIV)

Labor Day weekend should be an eventful one for Southwest Detroit as the first-ever Southwest Fest, or SW Fest will hold a free festival welcoming all at Senate Theater. The festivities will be on Saturday, Sept. 4, with an outdoor festival from 2-7 p.m. and an evening concert from 8-11 p.m. with many local artists.

An event of this caliber comes with many obstacles and you need a great team backing you up, says Gabriel Duran, one of the lead organizers and headlining talents for the festival.

Duran, 23, spoke on bringing together many individuals for this project, the talent coming out of Southwest Detroit, and making this event free for the community.

Gabriel Duran (Copyright 2021 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit - All rights reserved.)

“There are so many people in Southwest doing their thing, and it’s really great to see. It was only a matter of reaching out to friends and sharing the idea. We wanted to put together a large-scale music festival with vendors, resources for the community, and most importantly, we wanted it to be free,” said Duran.

It seemed like a breakthrough for the organizers when Senate Theater decided to partner with the festival, removing the worries of a venue fee.

Many of the performers have similar stories and upbringings, and Duran says that the event gives the ability to share their personal story and growth.

Camilla-Isabella Cantu has shared her music through Mariachi Femenil Detroit, the first woman-based mariachi ensemble in Michigan. She’ll be on stage not only with a group, but with her own independent performance.

Cantu, 21, was brought onto the project by Duran and says she wants to make people feel with her art. She has not publicly released the music yet, but says creating music is therapeutic for her.

“When I’m on stage, I lose track of everything because I’m in my own personal moment, and I would hope people are into their personal moment and everyone loses track of time for a bit, and we’re all in that moment together,” says Cantu.

Since graduating the University of Michigan, she has not only been working on music, but a podcast called Vibras Detroit, with co-host Luis F. Bustos Rodriguez and producers Ruben Lugo & Emmanuel Juarez.

SW Fest not only brought together a group of musicians and a group of creatives, including lead organizer Nyasia Valdez, but came together to bring ideas and draw inspiration from different festivals held in Southwest Detroit.

Valdez has partnered with other local groups like Detroit Southwest Pride, Inside Southwest, Garage Cultural, and more to help families in the Southwest Detroit community. The festival will also give away 100 backpacks and school supplies.

“Giving away backpacks for the kids is what I’m most excited for; they’re going back to school after being a year on virtual,” said Valdez.

Educating and informing the community is one of the main goals for the event, including educating people on the COVID-19 vaccine and receiving their first dose. SW Fest will also be offering free HIV tests.

With a lot of planning and preparation for the event, people think that this is the peak of what’s to be achieved, but in the eyes of event leaders and performers, that’s far from the truth.

“This is all the beginning for Southwest creatives,” said Cantu.

SW Fest 2021 Information (Copyright 2021 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit - All rights reserved.)

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