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Mama Lou: American Strong Woman
WordsAndPictures This entertaining performer will visit the fair to twist steel with feminist ideals
If You Go:
See Mama Lou: American Strong Woman perform at the Family Fair Stage at Baldwin Park on Wed., Aug. 27, and Thurs., Aug. 28, 2014, at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Women onstage
Women are performing at several of the 2014 fair's free entertainment stages. Included with gate admission ticket. Check out these musicians:

Chastity Brown
Gospel, roots and soul, jazz, blues and country - her powerful sound channels the confidence and desperation of the American psyche. Thurs., Aug. 21, and Fri., Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m. West End Market (formerly Heritage Square), www.chastitybrownmusic.com

Ellis' large Minnesota following will be pleased that she is making her debut at this year's fair. Sun., Aug. 31, and Mon., Sept. 1, 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. West End Market, www.ellis-music.com/music

Roxxy Hall Band
This crowd-pleasing, all-women group has been playing together since 1992. Sun., Aug. 31, 45-minute shows at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. DNR Stage, www.roxxyhallband.com

Marcia Ball
The New Orleans pianist/vocalist/songwriter ignites a rhythm-and-blues party. Sun., Aug. 31, and Mon., Sept. 1, 3:30 and 4:45 p.m. Leinie Lodge Bandshell, www.marciaball.com

by Betsy Gabler

When you're from the (rather boastful) mythical place called Lake Wobegon, "where all the women are strong," you have to wonder what kind of pressure an act called "Mama Lou: American Strong Woman" is under when performing at the very real 2014 Minnesota State Fair.

Mama Lou is the stage name for Linsey Lindberg, an intelligent, inspiring, upbeat woman, strong in spirit and body. Her "American Strong Woman" act grew out of a "failure," actually, which makes her story even stronger. She was rejected from a circus school that she wanted to attend.

Although the rejection felt very personal, she used it to challenge herself. "Why do I need permission to perform?" she asked herself. This led to the first of what turned out to be many enlightening moments in her decade-plus career.

Lindberg was already a trained clown and quite strong from being a trapeze artist. When you can hold yourself up in silks, spin yourself around and pull yourself up for 30 minutes at a time, you build up a little Popeye in you. After the circus school rejection, she began street performing in Seattle, and crafted her act, perfected her skills, built her physical and mental strength, and eventually began to make a living.

"I learned a lot about freedom and shedding expectations," she says. "Every day I'd get back up and try out new ideas and stunts. After a year, I had a show."

Role model

Although she was able to see her success build in a monetary way, a heartfelt, personal pay-off came when parents of young fans would start giving her handshakes along with tips. Both young boys and girls were wanting to "be as strong as Mama Lou."

"She told me I can be and I will be!" was the message these "little Lous" were sharing with their parents. Children could see that being strong was doable, fun and achievable because of the dialogue of encouragement Mama Lou weaves into her act.

Mama Lou realized that there is something very special about what she has created. She's using her body and reinforcing a feminist ideal of strength by perseverance, intelligence, and breaking stereotypical boundaries of gender and strength.

Proving it

When Mama Lou walks on stage, she can see disbelief in some audience members' eyes (yes, mostly guys) that as a woman she's truly as tough and strong as she claims.

She doesn't want the show to be a battle of the sexes, but in her act she often does need to use men from the audience to "prove" that, say, ripping a phone book in half (and more!) is as tough as it seems.

At the fair, you'll see her bend metal bars, tear decks of cards, rip phone books, turn frying pans into "burritos" and steal hearts of all ages. Her stage persona may exude a Rosie-the-Riveter vibe, but her personal strength is what she's most proud to leave with her audiences.

FFI: www.strongwomanshow.com

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