Sanford’s inaugural Porchfest was a homegrown hit
The first-ever Sanford Porchfest looked and sounded like it belonged smack dab in the middle of idyllic Mayberry.
Porchfest, an outdoor music festival, made a picture-perfect debut in Sanford in late February. Created to unify friends and neighbors through music, the free festival did that and much more.
The setting for the event was the city’s residential historic district, known for its charming homes and oak-tree lined streets. Instead of performing on big stages, musicians played on half-a-dozen porches in the area, with audiences watching from front yards and sidewalks. As acoustic music filled the air, American flags waved proudly from the cozy, well-kept patios.
About 30 acts performed, including the Sanford-based Celery City String Band, singer-guitarists, and blues, rock, and folk groups.
Happy-go-lucky couples, parents, and grandparents brought lawn chairs and blankets so they could relax and soak up the music, down-home ambiance, and sunshine. Children danced near the porch steps and drew pictures on the sidewalks with pastel-colored chalk. Many attendees strolled or biked from house to house to catch as many acts as possible, while others tooled around in golf carts.
Noelle and Brad Reninger, who moved to Sanford from Atlanta four years ago, jumped at the chance to be porch hosts. Not to be outdone, their young son, Landon, pitched in by manning a lemonade stand. The Reningers, who live on South Magnolia Avenue, know a thing or two about being good hosts.
“We entertain all the time – we’re constantly on the porch, having friends over,” Noelle says.
Chris Phillips, another porch host, says Sanford and the Porchfest concept are a great fit. The residential historic district is close in proximity to downtown’s popular First Street, both areas are very walkable, and the residents like to have fun.
“Sanford is the perfect spot to do something like this,” says Chris, who moved into his home on South Oak Avenue three years ago.
Singer-guitarist LJ Kenney, who played a solo set at the event, was impressed by Sanford and the festival’s coolness factor.
“I totally loved the vibe and the whole grass-roots feel it’s got going on,” he says. “And I like how it brings the community together.”
Although the event is new to Sanford, Porchfests have been around for more than a decade. The original Porchfest was launched in Ithaca, New York, in 2007. Since then, cities across the United States and Canada have started their own versions.
Sanford’s Porchfest was co-founded by a quartet of women who live in the historic residential district – Nancy Sepulveda, Shana Gorondy, Kim Waters, and Shelly Allen.
All four say the event exceeded their expectations, from attendance levels to feedback from guests, sponsors, and musicians.
“I knew we hit the jackpot when we weren’t even halfway through the day, and we had people approaching us, wanting to be part of it next year,” Shelly says.
By the festival’s end, Nancy says, about 200 people were dancing in a conga line to a reggae band’s upbeat, breezy music. Organizers estimate that the debut event drew about 500 people in all.
The Sanford Porchfest, a nonprofit endeavor, brought more than music and goodwill to the community. Organizers say they will donate all proceeds each year to a worthwhile charity. The proceeds come from merchandise sales, sponsors, and general donations. This year, the festival donated $1,000 to the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center in downtown Sanford. The money will fund scholarships for underprivileged children to attend the WDPAC’s summer theater camp.
Organizers are already planning for the second annual Sanford Porchfest, which is set for February 23, 2019. To get involved or for more details, visit SanfordPorchfest.org or Facebook.com/SanfordPorchfest.
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