GTPulse: Neighborhood Porch Festival Brings Together Local Musicians and Community Members

When the tourists are away the locals come out to play, literally. Traverse City’s Central Neighborhood hosted the inaugural Central Neighborhood Porch Fest yesterday and local musicians were playing their hearts out on porches sprinkled throughout the neighborhood.

Marilyn Vlach is the owner at my first stop at Porch Fest, she’s also the brains behind the idea for the festival.

“I got the idea probably four or five years ago when my daughter was at University of Michigan. We went to a porch festival down there called Water Hill Music Festival. I thought our neighborhood is set up so nicely to move from porch to porch, that it would be so cool to do it here.”

The Water Hill Music Festival is in the Water Hill neighborhood in Ann Arbor. There’s a large creative community in Ann Arbor and because there is so much local musical talent the Water Hill festival only allowed bands that lived in the neighborhood apply to perform. Marilyn didn’t want to limit the music to Central Neighborhood only, so she had applications open to all musicians in the community.

“We opened it up to anybody in the community that performs. We weren’t sure what the turnout would be but we ended up with, I think 25 different groups performing and we’re using about 17 or 18 porches in the Central Neighborhood.”

The bands all played for free, and the porches were all volunteered by residents who were willing to offer up their porch for a stage and their lawn for camp chairs and listeners. Resident Terri Bethea had Jack Pine playing on her porch. A website was created for community members to apply to play for the festival, but also for Central Neighborhood residents to volunteer their porch for the event.

“We had gotten a flyer attached to our mailbox talking about this inaugural porch fest, and they gave a website. So we reached out to the association and said we’d be glad to donate our porch. We didn’t know who would be playing on our porch until last week. These guys who were assigned to us…they’re really good!” Terri said.

The local music talent at the Central Neighborhood Porch Fest is phenomenal. From acoustic to ska to fabulous covers and more, the eclectic variety provided something for everyone. The event was also very community-centric, with lots of young families happily enjoying the music.

Not only were the attendees enjoying their time, but the musicians were as well. Guitarist Chad Schrader from local cover band The Timebombs would definitely participate in the event again.

“It was amazing! We’d love to come back if they’ll have us,” Chad said.

Marilyn and the Central Neighborhood Association wanted the festival to be community oriented and family friendly. Because the event is for the community, the advertising was limited and there wasn’t any road blocks up.

“We wanted it to be a low-key event to just get people out. We were doing it for us, not just for Central Neighborhood but Traverse City too. I think we have a great community of musicians. We’re not going to have food trucks, we don’t envision it being a money-maker. We just want to get outdoors and get to know each other, get to know our neighbors,” Marilyn said.

The event was advertised on Facebook and a few flyers were spread throughout town, but nothing more than that. For such a small amount of advertising, the turnout was great. Each porch stage had clusters of people standing or sitting in lawn chairs on the front yard. Some porches put out their own chairs, drinks and snacks for attendees. Attendees also brought snacks and drinks (and wine!) in their bags and backpacks. When attendees needed to use the restroom, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Crooked Tree Arts Center, and Friends Church all donated their facilities to the festival.

The festival wasn’t limited to just musical talent. Traverse City Creative Movement, a local circus troupe, also had a porch where they set up an aerial hoop for performers to contort into all kinds of beautiful shapes. The neighborhood association is open to other kinds of performing arts to be in next year’s Porch Fest.

“We’re open to any kind of performance based things,” Marilyn said.

If you missed Porch Fest this year, don’t worry. The Central Neighborhood Association plans on making the local music festival an annual event. Whether you’d like to perform or would like to attend, the Porch Fest is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon and another charming display of Traverse City’s commitment to community.


Categories: GTPulse