A front porch concert isn’t the typical way to meet your neighbors, Kathryn Golden admitted, but it’s unconventional experiences like those that truly unite communities, the PorchFestKC founder said from atop a stoop in the Midtown Roanoke neighborhood.
PorchFestKC — the city’s original porch-packed community music celebration, which returns Saturday for its fifth year — has evolved from one woman’s attempt to integrate into her surroundings to a community bonding opportunity drawing artists from across the region.
“As its gone on, it really has kind of honed in on placemaking and using spaces in nontraditional ways — which I think is really neat,” Golden said, crediting her launch of PorchFestKC to her love for old neighborhoods, urban environments, music festivals and a strong desire to create.
Joining in Golden’s vision are 152 bands — local and from afar — who will pack 68 porches across the Midtown neighborhoods of Roanoke, Union Hill and Longfellow, in addition to Union Cemetery.
Click here to view a full list and maps of porches at PorchFestKC 2019.
“One band is like, ‘Hmm. Kind of weird, but OK,’” Golden recalled of early reaction to the cemetery location which will — for the first time — house bands on the porch of a historic cottage and on several stages throughout its 27 acres.
“They’re literally up in the middle of the headstones … but there’s walking distance between them,” she said in preview of the festival, which features acts handpicked by Golden, who also serves as program manager at the Enterprise Center in Johnson County.
“It’s all just been me sitting at my dining room table using online tools to try to track people down,” the organizer said, describing the way she’s recruited bands for the festival. “I’m very introverted … so I just power through and try to get them excited about it.”
Click here to read about Golden’s journey through the entrepreneur space.
Classical, opera and folk acts, in addition to a 15-piece ukulele orchestra, will be among those featured at Union Cemetery, while an array of original music fills the streets of the additional neighborhoods — meticulously scheduled so no music overlaps in the same locations, Golden added.
“If I pull that off, I’m going to give myself a brownie because that is freaking amazing,” she said, laughing.
Click here for a look at out-of-town acts traveling to Kansas City for PorchFestKC.
When it comes to packing porches, dozens of Kansas Citians — including Scott Burnett, Jackson County legislator, and Union Hill residents Ryan Weber, president of the KC Tech Council and Ruben Alonso, president of AltCap and the Union Hill Neighborhood Association — generously offer their porches to Golden, year-after-year.
“[Finding hosts] has been different in every neighborhood,” she said. “West Plaza has a very tight-knit community. They invited me into all of that. Valentine, when I moved over there, didn’t really have any of that, so I was really relying on a couple of people to make that happen for me.”
“Roanoke … this neighborhood is fascinating. They’re super tight-knit. They get together and socialize. They meet at a wall every Thursday night and catch up,” she added, detailing the intricacies of PorchFestKC neighborhoods, each with its own small town whimsy in the heart of a major metropolitan city.
“This year more than ever, I have relied on one person in the neighborhood to be my neighborhood voice and sort of insisted on that as part of their playing along, because I just don’t have the bandwidth to do more,” added Golden, who manages PorchFestKC as a one-woman act of her own.
“I have somebody who helps with volunteers, which is great. I have individual friends who commit to the same thing every year,” she said. “But for the most part, I do almost all of it.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.