Last year, Tim Osbourne and Lynda O’leary banded together to bring Mt. Airy its first-ever PorchFest, saying their essential ingredients were community and connection, especially after isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic. They described last year’s fest as a “soft launch,” introducing the concept to the neighborhood. This year, they promise residents’ involvement will help make PorchFest a neighborhood staple.
“So PorchFest is a community-oriented and directed event, where residents use their porches to host musicians, using their porches as venues,” Osborne says. “And as a result, it ends up being a music festival where people can go out their door and, most importantly, spend time in the community in a quality manner where they’re connecting over things.”
“We had hundreds of people last year,” O’Leary says about the attendance rate. “But it’s hard to quantify exactly how many people because people dip in and out.”
They aim to grow the festival yearly, so O’Leary says they anticipate more folks this year.
The growth doesn’t seem far-fetched, as the momentum around PorchFest from neighbors has remained high since the inaugural event.
“We had people email periodically asking if [Porch Fest] was coming back. We got a whole bunch of emails saying, thank you so much for doing this.”
Osborne says more performers want to play this year, which has been both a great opportunity for expansion and a logistical challenge. “Last year, we put more energy into getting new artists,” he says. “This year, they’re coming to us, and it’s almost coming to, oh no, we gotta find a place for them to play, which is a great problem to have because the more, the merrier!”
Along with the enthusiasm, Osborne and O’Leary say that they feel that Mt. Airy residents have taken ownership of this festival, which Leary calls “super exciting.”
“We really wanted people to be able to understand that this was not an us [Osborne and Leary] driven event, but a community-driven event,” Osborne says.
The duo says that the shared understanding across the neighborhood has strengthened how neighbors show up for this festival, even before the event. “We’re seeing that people now have the basics down, and they’re using their own socials to promote their porches,” Osborne says. “They’re connecting much easier on their own than they did last year.”
This new sense of ownership has also taken some labor off the duo’s plate. Osborne also says, “People are making their own posters. They’re taking on the impetus of a lot of things we used to do, like marketing and spreading the word.” O’Leary says the enthusiasm has been “super exciting.”
Aside from neighborhood involvement, they have expanded their administrative team, having one person working on marketing (i.e., website, maps, and flyers), a high school intern working on Instagram, and a new volunteer coordinator, which has lightened much of their load.
O’Leary says, “We learned who we could count on to get things moving, and that has definitely been helpful.”
In line with yearly growth goals, the festival will expand more into the east side of Mt. Airy.
“From a geographical standpoint, we were primarily based in West Mt. Airy, and we’re not sure why that is,” O’Leary says. “Maybe we got more flyers up along Germantown Ave., more so on the west side? But this year, we are definitely way more into East Mt. Airy, and our boundaries are really kind of going outward to all sides, which we’re absolutely thrilled about.”
Osborne adds to the sentiment, saying, “[Seeing] it come to this side, like Devon Street and Ardleigh Street, makes it a lot better. We cover a huge geographic area, so I think it can sometimes be hard to get an event that feels really cohesive and has the spirit of the whole neighborhood. So it’s been gratifying to try to get all sides to come together.”
This year, folks can anticipate more musicians and porches to choose from and a wide variety of genres of music to indulge in. Mt. Airy PorchFest 2023 happens Saturday, September 9, from 1- 7 p.m. throughout the 19119 zip code — rain or shine.
To learn more about the performers, the hosting porches, and to see an interactive map, visit mtairyporchfest.com.