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Pickin' from the porches

September 06, 2013|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com
  • Ryan Herbst, from left, Dustin Perrott and Brady Myers play music on South Potomac Street in Hagerstown. The three will perform as part of the Historic Heights Porchfest.
Ric Dugan /

Decks and patios are great. But porches imply community.

They conjure up images of rocking chairs and sipping lemonade, checking in with neighbors and watching the ebb and flow of life. 

They initiate conversation and even invitation.

But if you think this comfortable lifestyle has disappeared from the American landscape, walk along historic South Prospect Street in Hagerstown on a warm evening.

Here, porches reign supreme.

“We are a porch neighborhood,” said Jennifer Fettig, who makes her home on the tree-lined street. “We sit on our porches quite a bit.”

But not just individually, she added.  “As groups of neighbors, we move from one person’s porch one night to a different one another night.”

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People walking by stop and chat, she shared, and most people on the street know everyone by name.

While doing research for a project, Fettig said she happened to come across a web site about a porch festival started in 2007 in Ithaca, N.Y. Musicians performed on their own or a friend’s porch and people could walk from house to house enjoying everything from classical and country to rock and reggae.

Today, Fettig said, the event has become so popular, it includes hundreds of musicians and has expanded to nearby communities.

“I thought, ‘What an excellent idea,’” Fettig said.

And the wheels began to turn. Could it be possible to hold a similar event on South Prospect Street, where porches hold such significance?

Fettig said she approached the Historic Heights Neighborhood 1st group “and the response was amazing.”

Now, after weeks of work, organizers have announced that the First Annual Historic Heights Porchfest will be from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14.

The event will include homes along South Prospect Street between Washington Street and Park Circle, Fettig said. The street will be closed throughout the afternoon.

Fettig said the goal of Porchfest is pretty simple: to provide musical entertainment in a relaxed, outdoor setting.

“Different porches will be showcased at different times so people can walk around and enjoy a variety of music along the way,” she said.

Fettig said there also will be two porches set aside for musicians to meet up with one another and jam.  In addition to the regular porches/stages, there will be a teen stage and a kids’ stage.

“We need more teen participants for the teen stage,” she said, “but the kids’ stage is looking pretty busy.  For this group, we’ll have a karaoke machine and a bunch of instruments. We even have a local drumming circle that might be able to teach them some drumming basics.”

While several bands and individual musicians have signed on to be a part of the event, Fettig said anyone can bring an instrument and join in the fun.

Porchfest also will feature food and beverages from local eateries.

Fettig said support from the community “has been fantastic. The City of Hagerstown has been very  helpful in providing information and resources. Everyone in the neighborhood and nearby area has been helping out. All of the music stores in Hagerstown have posted our call for musicians and, apparently, have been spreading the word.”

“The most amazing thing,” she noted, “is the response from the musicians. We wanted this to be a free event for the whole family so we can’t pay the musicians, although they can put a hat out. But that hasn’t deterred them at all. We’ve got over 20 musicians signed on already with more signing up every day. And they run the gamut in terms of types of music and ages of musicians.  At this point, our oldest musician is 73 but we’ve heard that we might have his older brother joining him.”

Fettig said Porchfest also will be an opportunity for visitors to learn more about South Prospect Street and its history.

“We’re putting together a map of the porches and the back will have, what we call our walking tour, which gives a quick history of the houses on the street,” she said. “Also, we’re making plaques — for lack of a better word — to post in front of most of the houses so guests can read about them as they walk from porch to porch.”

“It’s a great neighborhood,” Fettig said. 

There are historic homes, “plus two churches and the Women’s Club, which also will be participating in Porchfest,” she said.

Fettig encouraged people attending the event to bring a chair, blanket and, of course, an instrument.

Fettig said this is the first year for Porchfest, “but we plan to make it an annual event.”

If you go ...        

What: Historic Heights Porchfest, featuring musicians performing on porches along South Prospect Street

When:  2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14 

Where: South Prospect Street in Hagerstown between Washington Street and Park Circle

Cost:  Free

Contact:  For more information, go to www.historicheightshagerstown.wordpress.com/porchfest


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