PorchFest is Cranbury’s way of bringing neighbors together during summer

Courtesy photo
Marilynn Mullen and Sally O’Grady converse during this year's Cranbury PorchFest. (Courtesy photo)

When Jane Curran was moving with her family from Florida to Cranbury in 2010, one of the first things she learned about her new community was PorchFest.

PorchFest is a rite of summer, a type of pot luck supper, backyard block party that is open to the community on Friday nights at different homes in town. More than anything, the event is intended to build community where neighbors socialize with neighbors, say people who attend.

The idea was started locally by Wendi and John Patella, who moved to town 13 years ago from Newtown, Pa., where there was something similar. Today, Township Committeeman Michael J. Ferrante and his wife, Deanna, maintain the PorchFest Cranbury Facebook page.

There is a closed Facebook group, so people have to ask to be a member, Ferrante said.

“We just have people validate they live in Cranbury,” Ferrante said. “They just say where they live and we confirm they are a Cranbury resident and then they can join.”

He said he and wife have been playing to host a PorchFest since 2008.

“We try to sort of make sure it moves around town, that it’s in all the different neighborhoods,” Ferrante said. “The idea is that you don’t put on a big to-do as a host. You just provide the bare minimum, a table, a cooler of ice and a clear path to an inside restroom. And that’s pretty much it.”

Curran and her husband, Matt, have played host to about six PorchFest events in their time living in Cranbury.

“We enjoy friends we’ve known for years come over, but also new friends as well,” she said. “That’s the wonderful thing about PorchFest. It’s very welcoming and a great place to see your friends over the summer, but also to make new friends.”

The time to attend one is running out. PorchFest runs from the Friday after Memorial Day to the Friday before Labor Day.

Former Mayor David Cook, now living in Tuscan, Ariz., has traditionally been the host of the final PorchFest of the season for the past 12 years. He plans to continue the tradition at his Cranbury home this week.

He called it a “great way” for those new to town to meet people and touched on why it has had staying power in the community.

“I think it’s because it creates an environment where you can come in and see people that, in some cases, you don’t see all year, but see people you don’t see as often as you like,” he said by phone on Aug. 23. “You can bring the kids or not bring the kids. You can stop in for an hour, or five minutes, or the whole night.”

Guests to PorchFest normally bring a dish and a drink, Ferrante said.

“It’s pretty neighborly and there are always plenty of leftovers,” he said. “It’s a very Cranbury kind of thing.”