by Margaret Hudgings
Inspired by Transition thinking, the West Chester Green Team formed a committee and created a music festival for West Chester.
What is Transition? It is an international movement started in the UK whose goal is helping communities as they transition to a new economy–away from fossil fuels and to healthier forms of energy. When people are in transition, they can feel isolated and lost. They can also lack the skills needed to thrive in a new economy. Transition towns try to address these issues. They focus on teaching and modeling skills such as gardening, repairing items of all sorts, founding a buy nothing economy so people can offer items they no longer need to others who need them, and also creating celebrations to help everyone through challenging times. Thus, WC Porchfest was born.
The Green Team followed the model of another international movement in creating this event locally. PORCHFEST originated in Ithaca NY in 2007. It has now spread across the US and Canada. Porchfest events bring local musicians and neighborhoods together to celebrate and create a sense of community. We used the blueprint of Porchfest in Binghamton, NY provided to us by a member who has attended other Porchfest events.
Our committee had representatives recruiting bands and front porches, getting sponsorships, interfacing with local government, making maps, arranging food trucks, interfacing with the local community and handling publicity. Saturday, May 21 is Porchfest Day. Hoping now for lovely weather and lots of fun.
The GT Porchfest Committee projected about 20 musical acts for our first year but closed registration when we reached 52. We also have 36 front porches and a local church which is welcoming attendees by setting up outdoor tables with seating for 50, adjacent to a gathering of food trucks.
The musical acts range from jazz to classical with lots of rock and some unique additions such as a performance of organ grinder music boxes by a local collector and a Japanese singer who will also demonstrate how to dress in kimono. A local dance studio will perform in the park. Children’s activities will be there and include arts and crafts, planting and a musical instrument petting zoo.
The local food co-op will provide free strawberry shortcake, and the Buy Nothing group will host an old fashioned white elephant fishing pond. We have also added in 2 porch displays of our environmental work, one based on Doug Tallamy’s vision of planting native species of flowers and trees and another featuring our newest Dark Sky Committee.
We benefited from the help of local leaders with Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste cosponsoring the event. We highly recommend the Porchfest model for community outreach, as we are connecting with a new demographic. We are not preaching to the choir as so often happens with green events. And Porchfest is upbeat. It is essential to inspire and energize our supporters and this event seems an excellent vehicle for delivering our message.