Sat 6/15 @1-10PM
Created as a way to draw attention to the Larchmere Boulvard neighborhood, located north of Shaker Square in Cleveland, the Larchmere PorchFest in a nutshell is an annual festival where bands play on porches, uniting community members and attracting attendees from around Northeast Ohio. This year’s affair takes place Sat 6/15 @ 1-10pm on dozens of Larchmere porches.
“It was started as a resident initiative for people who wanted to show off a neighborhood and local talent, local musicians, local artists,” Larchmere PorchFest President Dawn Arrington said.
“This is an all-volunteer organization, and we have a very low budget. We do it because we love it. We want to see it be what it was intended to be — something that shows off a neighborhood and brings people together.”
Early on, the one-day free event started with 20 bands and roughly 500 festivalgoers. This year’s Larchmere PorchFest will feature roughly 30 acts — performances ranging from rock, folk and hip-hop to classical, R&B, blues and experimental — and attract about 10,000 people.
“The idea is for us to highlight local musicians, local artists, so there is a little bit of a curation process,” Arrington said. “We do have a music committee that makes sure we have a good mix of styles and types of music. That’s really important to us that we have representation across the board.”
In many ways, Arrington’s journey to Larchmere PorchFest five years ago epitomizes the spirit of the event.
“I actually live in the Buckeye neighborhood, so we share a lot of similar resources like city council people, Community Development Block Grant money and things of that sort,” Arrington said. “When I first heard about PorchFest, I didn’t think it was for me, honestly. I didn’t think it was for the people on that side of the Shaker train track line.”
What changed was an unlikely invitation from a friend inviting Arrington and her family to experience everything Larchmere PorchFest had to offer.
“It was the power of that invitation that completely bought me in,” Arrington said. “Plus, the music was great. My kids had a good time. My husband had a good time. We were like, this is amazing, I can’t believe we never went before, living right around the corner.”
Soon thereafter, Arrington become a Larchmere PorchFest board member before leading the event, which culminates this year with finale performances on E. 126th Street front porches before after-parties at local restaurants.
“We just had a community meeting and one of our residents said, ‘PorchFest is a national holiday for me,’” Arrington said. “To me, that is PorchFest. There no better compliment for a group of regular, everyday people putting together a premiere event that in a way kind of kicks off summer.
“That says a whole lot about the power of grassroots efforts, organizing and just people wanting to have fun. And I hope we have the support to keep that going.”
Arrington said Larchmere PorchFest will continue to thrive as long as its participants and organizers remain diligent. She points to the popular Hessler Street Fair’s recent announcement it was going on hiatus due to a lack of volunteers as always being a consideration.
“We would like Larchmere PorchFest to go on, but the reality is we are a volunteer organization,” Arrington said. “Much like Hessler Street Fair, one of the issues or challenges is they’re a resident-led group that has to pay the bills.
“That’s what we’re faced with right now. Our goal is to make sure we put on a quality event that happens with the community and not to the community. So we’re looking at those challenges and figuring out what’s best for everyone involved going forward.”
[Written by John Benson]