Editor’s Note: BLDRfly contributor Rob Connolly attended Mapleton Hill’s PorchFest last Sunday. Here’s his magical review.
By Rob Connolly
For the sixth year in a row on Sunday afternoon from 1 to 4:15 p.m., PorchFest graced Boulder’s quintessential Mapleton Hill neighborhood. The multi-home jamboree of bands playing on porches and delighting those who wander in and out delivered a wonderful experience.
A parade at noon kicked off the party with Irish step dancers, folk bands, a lone bagpipe player and delighted kids, adults and dogs who took over the streets. No police escort needed!
In total, 27 bands played at homes in an area of just a few blocks. The sounds of banjos, guitars, violins and voices filled the air, delighting the kids, adults and dogs who wandered the leafy streets and lawns soaking in the tunes.
Each “stage” featured blankets, lawn chairs – each home its own boutique venue. Audiences listened to a few songs and then wandered to the next house, usually just a handful of lots down the block.
As a sound experience, the fest was fantastic. Music was loud and crisp enough while watching, fading to silence while walking to the next home and then a new sound, new band and new venue would appear. Delightful.
After a few stops, faces became familiar, which led to introductions, conversations and dancing. This walkabout really brought the community together. What better way to bond with neighbors and visitors with music in a beautiful setting? And it was beautiful – Sunday offered up one of Boulder’s soft September glows and the shady streets tempered the heat.
Kids danced, dogs wagged their tales, old pals embraced and new friendships blossomed.
At one point during Aulternate Reality Jazz Trio’s set at a Mapleton Ave. home, a woman appeared out of the audience like a mirage and entranced the crowd with hula hoop interpretive dance. Wow!
She even distracted the band a little, yet they settled in and took a moment to celebrate her improvisation. She vamped a little longer and then faded back into the audience. Some folks asked if she was part of the show, others smiled broadly, some pondered if it was all a dream. It wasn’t a day for explanations, but one just to be. A nice reminder that magic surrounds us.
Food vendors kept the crowd fueled for the afternoon’s adventures.
The French Twist Food Truck, Cheese Love Grill, Arepas Caribbean Food and Peak Pops (seek out their grapefruit jalapeño) served up grub to festival attendees. Some homes offered cookies, water and other snacks. Kids on the blocks found their entrepreneurial spirit and opened snack shoppes and pop-up bakeries. One house even had its own DJ to groove to while sipping homemade lemonade.
PorchFest began in Ithaca, New York, and has since grown to over 60 festivals across the U.S. and Canada. It is easy to see why. What do you want to hear? Jazz? Got it. Folk? You know it. Bluegrass? Right this way.
PorchFest photos. Credit: Rob Connolly, BLDRfly.
A small committee, who originally brought PorchFest to Mapleton Hill to celebrate and build community – and for the simple fun of it — still runs it today. This attitude is what makes the festival so engaging. It is simple. Enjoyment is the only agenda.
If PorchFest didn’t end up on your calendar this year, do yourself a favor and keep the festival website bookmarked for next year. People were already discussing next year as the last shows came to a close.
Residents of Mapleton Hill whispered to their friends that they might host a band next time. It was just magical. So much laughter, so many smiles, dancing and high fives galore. Well done, PorchFest. See you next year …
Feature image: PorchFest in full swing. Credit: Rob Connolly, BLDRfly.
Rob Connolly moved to Boulder from New York City in August, 2018 to start a new adventure. His previous exploits include growing up near Boston, performing on summer stock stages, writing sketch comedy in Los Angeles and creating short films in Brooklyn.