Editor’s Note: As this story went to print, Porchfest was cancelled for 2020 in the evening of July 29 (please see tweet below). The festival organizers are still encouraging locals to play from their own homes, at safe distance, on Aug. 8. We’ve decided to keep the story up online, in case Hintonburg neighbours wish to participate from their own porches.
By Matthew Horwood
Ottawa’s sixth annual Porchfest will be going forward in a limited fashion, despite the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling numerous music festivals in Ottawa.
Local artists will be performing on Saturday, Aug. 8 from 1-5 p.m. in the Hintonburg and Wellington neighborhoods, but with some changes to guarantee public safety.
Instead of playing at businesses and select locations throughout the neighborhoods, local artists are being asked to play on their own porches, or the porches of willing participants, to discourage large crowds from gathering.
“We were not sure how the pandemic would unfold and wanted to get back to normality as quickly as we could. We can go back to normal life eventually. However, we are still at a pinnacle moment where we can determine the real effects of this pandemic. So no crowds this year,” Ottawa Porchfest announced on Twitter July 25.
A map of the locations won’t be posted online either, leaving it up to the musicians to market their acts themselves.
“This year, it’s basically for the community to play to itself,” said co-founder and organizer Ken McKay.
McKay said event organizers had originally planned on doubling the size of Porchfest in 2020, as they had extra support from the Wellington West BIA and Kitchissippi Ward Councillor Jeff Leiper.
But by March, the organizers were considering whether the music festival would have to be cancelled altogether due to COVID-19. McKay said it was decided not to cancel Porchfest prematurely, “in case we entered stages of reopening that would allow for small groups.”
While MacKay acknowledged that outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people are allowed during Phase 3 of Ontario’s reopening strategy, the organizers thought it would be wise to stick to a smaller, more localized event this year.
“Many people are still feeling scared, so we obviously wanted to take that into consideration and not have people running around the neighborhood.”
While McKay is expecting a much smaller turnout than previous years, he says this year’s Porchfest is still a great way for local Ottawa local musicians to show off their talents. And as far as McKay knows, this will be the only musical festival in Ottawa that wasn’t forced to cancel this year.
“So, let’s keep the spirit of Porchfest alive, and next summer is going to be a big one,” he said.