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There is a porch party every month this summer in Waterloo Region. A porch party is best described as a free mini music festival, a celebration of community and local musical talent, showcased on the porches of neighbourhood homes.

The Grand Porch Party in Waterloo’s uptown west neighborhood was the first in the area, started in 2011. It’s been going strong ever since, and in 2012, the GPP received Waterloo Region’s Art’s Award for Best New Music Festival. This recognition seems to have inspired other neighborhood associations to come together to host their own porch parties. In 2013 the Hohner Avenue Porch Party debuted, followed in 2015 with the Schneider Creek Porch Party and the Preston Porch Party.

For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of attending a local porch party, let me help paint a picture. Rain or shine, starting mid-afternoon, musicians take their porch posts and residents from near and far begin to fill the neighborhood. I wouldn’t be surprised if you pass a lemonade stand as you walk towards the music, and who can blame the kids for taking advantage of the increased foot traffic?

Once arrived, as several bands are often playing at once, follow the rhythm of a porch that best suits you. Sitting, dancing, swaying and meandering are all accepted. There is often chalk and other activities for the kids (and youthful souls) and an information booth. Depending on the event, various art and environmental stations may be set up.

In more recent years, food trucks are getting in on the action and come to feed hungry bellies. Each porch party has their own unique way to end the event, sometimes with a marching band, belly dancing or my personal favourite: the sing-along.

Porch parties share a commitment to the talented musicians of Waterloo Region. It’s an eclectic mix of garage and cover bands, local neighborhood acts, solo artists and classical instrumentalists. There is often even space for younger performers to shine. Well known bands, elementary school choirs, Indigenous drum circles, bag pipers and steel drum bands have all performed in years past.

And while it may seem that the music simply emerges from porches to fill our ears and hearts, it is the collective drive from neighborhood volunteers that brings these porch parties to life. In the months and days leading up to each event, volunteers find bands and porches, hang posters, gather funds and basically everything else too.

Porch parties are a low-cost opportunity to turn off and put down our screens, tune out supersized pop stars and connect with local musicians and new people. At a porch party there are faces we likely see in our day-to-day lives, at the grocery store, the market, the pub or our sidewalk. Rarely do we have the time in our busy schedules to slow down and introduce ourselves. Porch parties provide the time and space to do so. They turn regular streets with potholes and curbs into avenues of laughter and joy.

As Laura McBride, an organizer of the Hohner Avenue Porch Party put it, “porch parties are just as much about people sharing experiences, building relationships and seeing our places from a different perspective, as they are about music and the arts.”


PORCH PARTY DATES:

May
Hohner Ave. Porch Party
Last Saturday in May
May 27, 2017, 3pm-8pm

June
Grand Porch Party
Second Sunday in June
June 11, 2017, 2pm-5pm

July
Schneider Creek Porch Party
Saturday after Hillside
July 22, 2017, 3pm-8pm

August
Preston Porch Party
Last Saturday in August
August 26, 2017, 1pm-5pm


HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR PORCH PARTY EXPERIENCE:

• Mark your calendar now, but don’t worry if you are already double booked. As a free event open to everyone, you can come and go as you please, even if your busy weekend only has enough time for an hour or two.

• Volunteer! A porch party wouldn’t work without the amazing efforts from volunteers. All sorts of efforts are appreciated. Connect on social media if you are interested in helping out!

• Dress for the weather. Porch parties happen rain or shine! We hope for sunshine  but really the music is only silenced by the sound of thunder.

• Carry light chairs. Even though some homes may put out a few chairs for those in need, you are more than welcome to bring your own. Most of the crowd is too busy wandering or dancing to the music to take a seat for too long.

• Respect roadways and be mindful of cars on nearby streets. Common sense.

• Bring your own water bottles and even utensils and plates to save on disposables handed out by any food vendors.

• Be friendly and have a good time!