Story and photos by Joseph Hutt –
On Oct. 24, the sound of live music was heard coming from unusual places – the porches and front stoops of over a dozen Hintonburg homes. It was the first annual Ottawa Porchfest, and it was in full swing.
Organized by local residents, Ken McKay and Stephanie Halin, Porchfest is largely what the name implies; it is a musical festival staged upon various porches within the Hintonburg community. From Bayswater Avenue to Hinton Avenue North, close to twenty households were more than willing to volunteer their space for the event.
The various bands and performers were almost exclusively local, and included guitarist Friar Tuck, French folk singer Sandy Dupuis, local band The Beating Hearts, as well as Ken McKay himself.
By the time the last act wound down, Halin and McKay were thrilled to see how much attention the event had attracted. As chilly as it was, there were as many as sixty people crowded around a single porch, with people often spilling over to the opposite sidewalk.
From neighbours to passersby to wide-eyed children eager to see what the commotion was about, this family friendly music festival attracted a diverse audience.
“This is one of those events that really brings the community together,” says McKay. “It will draw out those neighbours you only see in passing.”
He also acknowledges how eager the local community association was to get this idea off the ground. They were so eager, in fact, that McKay and Halin found themselves with less than six weeks to plan the entire event.
“A friend of mine tabled the idea for me in November,” McKay explains. “It was passed that night. I woke up the next day and I get a call asking me to get this organized as soon as possible. I said, ‘Sure!’”
Despite the rush, feedback on the inaugural Ottawa Porchfest has been positive, from both the performers and the audience.
Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper shot this video:
“It’s been killer!” says Chris Sims, lead singer for The Beating Hearts. “Normally, the odds of all these people coming together and enjoying music like this are slim.”
Two local residents commented that the event was “a very good idea,” but that they are looking forward to seeing it expand.
“It would be nice to see them getting more involved with the local businesses,” says Linda Steingarten, who attended some of the performances around Bayswater. “Or even to bring in food trucks, because there isn’t anything around here.”
McKay and Halin say that they are “looking for organic growth” when it comes to the future of Ottawa Porchfest. However, certain things, like scheduling Porchfest for earlier in the year and putting a greater emphasis on event promotion, are already a part of the game plan for next year.