July 3, 2020

Block(s) Party!

Traverse City Central Neighborhood's inaugural Porch Fest
By Ross Boissoneau | Aug. 31, 2019

What would you call an afternoon of music hosted throughout a neighborhood, including musicians both from that area and from outside it? Music that runs the gamut from Americana to classical, punky bluegrass to party pop to — wait a minute, is that a circus act?
In Traverse City at least, you’d call it the Central Neighborhood Porch Fest. And it’s coming to the downtown neighborhood soon — Sunday, Sept. 8 to be exact.  Organized by the Central Neighborhood Association, this first-of-its-kind event is part music festival, part community gathering, and all fun. At least, that’s the plan.
“The concept is to have entertainment for the community and get up and walk around,” said Marilyn Vlach, one of the organizers. She’s hopeful that it will lead the Central Neighborhood into becoming more than a watchdog for untoward behavior or potential problems and bring together those who may live near one another but don’t always know their neighbors from a couple blocks away.

“It’s an event to get us together. We keep on top of things like traffic and parking [but] don’t do a ton of social things.”
She came to the idea from a similar event she attended in Ann Arbor. She said the proximity of the homes made it walkable, and the various entertainment options made it enjoyable. She’s hoping the same holds true here.
The event’s website encourages people to watch, listen and enjoy — all for free:
“Think of the neighborhood as the festival grounds and the various participating porches as different stages, each with a different lineup. This is a music festival in a community setting. The homeowners donate their porches, the organizers donate their time and energy, and the musicians donate their talents, all so we can have a lovely, music-filled afternoon of entertainment and camaraderie in the neighborhood!”
While it is being held in the Central Neighborhood — roughly from Fifth to 14thstreets, east of Division Street and west of Union Street — the event is open to anyone to attend, wherever they live, and the same is true of the entertainment.

“You don’t have to live in the neighborhood to perform. Anybody that wants to come and walk around is invited,” Vlach said. As all the streets will remain open, the organizers recommend parking somewhere outside the neighborhood and walking to and through the festival, which will run from 1pm to 5pm.
The entertainment comes in all stripes. Earthwork Music artist Nicholas James Thomasma combines stories and songs with humor in a show for all ages. Analogue Sect does original rock with a ’90s vibe. Traverse City’s party-pop band the Timebombs covers “all the songs you forgot you loved,” while The G Suite offers a classical respite with solo harp, and The Lofteez (pictured above) brings acoustic world music. Emmy Award-winner Jabo Bihlman is half the popular rock band the Bihlman Brothers. And don’t forget Traverse City Creative Movement, part of The Greatest of Ease circus.
In order to keep the neighborhood feel, there won’t be any concessions, food trucks, souvenir stands, or the like. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own snacks and beverages. Area churches and Crooked Tree Art Center will be open to provide bathrooms.
A complete schedule for the day, as well as additional information about the event and the performers, can be found at tinyurl.com/y4292d25. Anyone interested in performing can make contact there as well. The event will take place rain or shine.
Organizers are hoping for the latter, of course — and that it starts a trend. “This is the first,” said Vlach. “I hope it becomes annual.”


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