Milford gears up for second annual PorchFest

MILFORD — The last time Milford hosted a PorchFest event, it went much better than expected, generating enthusiasm from across the city.

Now, as planning begins for the 2021 version of PorchFest, organizers hope the event is here to stay.

“The first year (2019), it was like, ‘Let’s do PorchFest,’ and we’re doing it in a month. It was very much like ‘What is a PorchFest?’ ‘How do we make it work?’” said Cassandra Schull, Milford Recreation Center marketing specialist. “Obviously, during 2020, we couldn’t host our second annual PorchFest. So we are really diving back into it.”

PorchFest is an annual music event held across the country where bands perform on front porches in a community. The event was started in Ithaca, New York, in 2007, to bring local musicians and neighborhoods together and celebrate and create a sense of community.

The 2021 Milford PorchFest is scheduled for Oct. 2 from 1 to 6 p.m.

Schull said in 2019, they weren’t sure how the reaction would be, but they were presently surprised that communities enjoyed it.

“We’ve gotten very good positive feedback, all the way through the prior event,” she said. People love it, and they love the sense of community that it has created.”

Schull said she expected PorchFest to be a regular happening.

“It’s back, and it’s here to stay, we hope, whether it’s going to continue in the same capacity year-to-year, or evolve with the times as much as we need it to,” she said.

Economic Development Director Julie Nash said the inaugural event had been a surprise success.

“It went off 1,000 times better than I thought it would. I didn’t know it was going to be so well received,” she said.

Caraly Schultz of Milford was one of the hosts during the 2019 PorchFest. She got involved because at her former home in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, PorchFest had brought a sense of community to the area.

“The moment I saw it promoted in Milford, I jumped on the opportunity,” she said. “It is a great way to meet neighbors from a few streets away or a few neighborhoods away while in a fun atmosphere where everyone is having a great time listening to music.”

Schultz will be hosting this year again in her Wildermere Beach neighborhood, and she decided to volunteer to be on the committee as co-captain of the Wildermere Beach/Walnut Beach neighborhoods.

“As a co-captain, we help recruit homes and bands and work on the scheduling and guidance of those who are the hosts,” she said. “We work with the hosts to ensure that they promote the bands and follow the guidelines of the event, as well all want the event to become a community staple for years to come.”

There are spots still available for bands and for those who want to have a band play on their porch. The deadline to sign up for both is Sept. 1 by 5 p.m. To sign to play or to host a band sign up through the city website, ci.milford.ct.us.

“We are going to connect people to area captains, and individuals will be able to pair themselves with bands or locations,” said Schull. “At a minimum, we want to put the finalized schedule about two weeks before the event.”

Schultz said she believes more houses and bands will want to participate after the success of 2019.

“In 2021, people are craving other people and enjoying live music,” said Schultz. “I think that those who did participate in 2019 will enhance their hosting by adding food trucks and portable bathrooms and create an enhanced experience.”

Nash said since it’s at private homes, whatever COVID-19 mandates there are on Oct. 2, they will be abiding by those rules.

“People might cancel at the last minute. We talked about that, and that’s fine. We’re going to be as respectful and accommodating to as many people as possible,” said Nash.

Schull said they haven’t gotten any people who have canceled yet for the event, but they are asking those who sign up if they want to back out to give them a notice in advance so they can plan accordingly.

In 2019, 76 locations participated in the PorchFest, and this year, they have already signed up nearly half of that number with a couple of weeks to go before the deadline.

“We anticipate the event is going to be bigger and larger than it previously was,” said Schull.

Nash said one of the new things they are implementing this year is the integration of area captains that focus on different areas in Milford. The captains communicate with the homeowners and bands to give them information during the event.

“They’re helping to oversee the event because year one it was just two of us trying to get to all of the locations,” said Schull. “It was successful year one, and we are on a path to success in year two.”

Nash said an important thing for them is to keep the event as organic as possible.

“I feel when you start commercializing this and sponsoring and food trucks, it kind of takes away from what that first year was like and if I can keep that first-year spirit throughout the event through years to come. I think it will be a good event,” said Nash. “Because it really just was people walking to their neighbor's houses meeting each other, sometimes for the first time.”

Nash said it was a great way for the community to interact with the added benefit of having live music.

“It was much more of an impact than I thought it would be.”

Both Nash and Schull agreed that the event will be a success if people enjoy themselves and are respectful to one another.

“Having enough bands and porches signup is key to keeping it what it is,” said Schull.