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First-ever Princeton Porchfest delivers live music performances from neighbors’ front porches

Photo courtesy of the Arts Council of Princeton
April ARTS

Throughout Princeton the sounds of live music and band performances will be heard straight from 11 porches in Princeton’s first-ever Porchfest during April ARTS.

The free shows for residents and visitors from noon to 6 p.m. April 23 are set to occur on front porches mostly in the central business district as part of April ARTS, a monthlong celebration of the arts.

“We saw Porchfest as the epitome of building community through the arts. The communities are helping us by opening up their porches,” said Adam Welch, executive director of the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP). “Porchfest is a way for people to sit and enjoy the neighborhood feel and neighborhood event. We see this as the perfect culmination of our mission all through the vehicle of art.”

Organized by ACP, with the support of Princeton University, there are 11 porch locations for the live shows.

“We received 37 porch applications for Porchfest. When we set out to promote this we talked about 10-plus and our goal was to have approximately 10 locations,” Welch said. “We then installed a large-scale map on our wall and put pushpins in on the map of every location that applied. We decided we needed to group them based on location and proximity to other locations.”

The locations are the Arts Council at 102 Witherspoon St., 54 Leigh Ave., 230 Birch Ave., 2 Mt. Lucas Road (Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad), 300 Witherspoon St. (former home of the Princeton Packet), 71 Wiggins Ave., 185 Nassau St. (Lewis Center for the Arts program in visual arts building at Princeton University), 11 Willow St., 15 Maple St., 45 Linden Lane, and 30 Murray Place.

“I am truly excited about all of the porch locations. The fact that nearly 40 people signed up to participate in this was eye-opening,” Welch said. “People are opening up their front yards and porches to total strangers. I am particularly excited about the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad. A department of first responders that has done so much before and since the pandemic and that they wanted to join and partake in Porchfest is a pretty exciting thing.”

Other locations Welch is particularly excited about are 185 Nassau St. at Princeton University and 230 Birch Ave.

“We love that university is opening up its lawn. The university has picked a prime location that is truly accessible to the entirety of tourism and the town,” he said. “Our Councilman Leighton Newlin has put his house up on Birch Avenue as a porch that too is pleasing for us. A couple council members had put up their porches. Leighton’s was the one that fit in the geographical circle we were looking for.”

The Arts Council wanted the locations for Porchfest to be close enough to walk, but not close enough to hear.

“Every location we chose would be just a brief couple minute walk to the next location, so that people who attended Porchfest could flow between all the different locations during the day,” Welch said. “We did not want a situation where things were destination locations. Meaning, we did not want there to be one isolated place that would take everyone out of the mix. Our goal here is to have some fluidity.”

To avoid any safety issues the Arts Council met with municipal officials, traffic and police departments to review the plans.

At the 11 front porch locations, there will be five bands scheduled to perform at each location. The bands will have a 40-minute set with a 20-minute break between sets.

“Because it is our first year we wanted to minimize any setup and takedown issues,” Welch said. “There is a pretty good mixture of music genres. There is a little bit of blues, R&B, a lot of rock, some a cappella groups, and Princeton University students will have bands that they put together and coordinated.”

Porchfest is from noon to 6 p.m., but outside of the Arts Council’s porch location all the other porch performances end at 4:45 p.m.. At 5:15 p.m. the very last performance will be taking place at the Arts Council on 102 Witherspoon St.

“We are encouraging everyone to come back to the central business district for one final performance, so we can thank everyone our hosts, our sponsors and thank the bands,” Welch said. “Then give the one final performance and encourage everyone to get dinner and drinks in the central business district.”

People can bring lawn chairs, blankets, and sit on their bike, walker and skateboard or stand during Porchfest.

Princeton’s Porchfest was inspired by Asbury Park, which has its own Porchfest.

“We reached out to Asbury, who has been doing this successfully for five years,” Welch said. “There the ones we based a lot of out information on and we used them as a guide. They were the ones who said to avoid destinations that lead to issues.”

For more information on Porchfest or April ARTS events, visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

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