West Chester Porchfest 2023. Image: Anthony Matz

It is estimated a record number 6000 people attended the second annual West Chester Porchfest. The popular event shut down streets in the Borough’s southwest quadrant as more than 50 residents lent their porches to a whole host of local musicians. The day started with a slight drizzle but it was not enough to deter residents from coming out in droves to hear the roughly 70 bands, grab a bite, partake in a variety of complementary activities.

There were multi-piece bands that rocked out on large porches to crowds pooling on streets and sidewalks and acoustic soloists who gave intimate performances for fans clustered close or passersby who paused to catch a few bars en route to another destination. There were members of WCU’s Wells School of Music and a Ukulele troupe. From large to small, the music selection this year was exceptional. Many happy homeowners are already locking their bands in for next year. 

A group of enterprising kids set up a lemonade and snack stand – then donated all the proceeds to support the event. (Good too, because the Borough’s fees for police and public works – are well, quite hefty but we’ll get into that another time.) 

The signage was great this year as was the music flow. Bands were nicely spaced and schedules respected. Music flowed rhythmically down the blocks as one performance time ended and another began. Trash collection was good and drinking (pretty) much contained. 

However, as in any event this size, not everyone was thrilled. There were reports of lines at the bathrooms and parking was (shocker) a challenge. There were some that felt hosting Porchfest and Studio Art Tour on the same day put unnecessary strain on cross streets and kept some from attending. Some porch hosts were disappointed by last-minute cancellations and unexpected lineup changes – but in the end, the complaints were small in comparison to the fun. 

A participant satisfaction survey went out to hosts, performers, sponsors and attendees this week as plans for Porchfest 3 are already underway. It will again be the third Saturday in May – if you would like to mark your calendars. (Sorry, Studio Art Tour participants, there are reasons this date works and it has much to do with when students are in session.) 

Um, thanks for the recap – but why did you call this write-up “The Porchfest Challenge?”

Image: Anthony Matz

Yes, that. When Porchfest was originally discussed the West Chester Green Team had proposed rotating the event through the borough’s quadrants. Which has merits. It would make it easier to involve more residents and give each neighborhood an opportunity to highlight its distinctive charm. It also wouldn’t be easy. 

Porchfest has grown rapidly in just two years. It takes a lot of volunteer time, effort, and coordination to pull off. Organizers are just now beginning to feel like they have an understanding of what is needed and the core group in place with the skills to pull it off. Moving the whole endeavor to a new team with new streets and new constraints would be a heavy lift. 


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Image: Anthony Matz

So, instead, I would like to propose a challenge. What if each quadrant came up with its own version of Porchfest? A unique way to invite the community to their neck of the woods and show off their little slice of the Borough. The mini-festivals could rotate through the calendar year giving us multiple opportunities to celebrate together. Perhaps the northeast quadrant could build on Marshall Square Park’s Santa in the Square by adding a neighborhood holiday lights tour or a caroling festival. Or the Southeast could partner with the university to make homecoming something more than a football game?

I am sure you can come up with better ideas than mine but coming out of another successful Porchfest – I just wanted to throw out the idea for more. And if you do it, please take pictures. 

Published, May 26, 2023

This story is part of a longer weekly West Chester newsletter. Curious what else is going on? You can find the full issue here and the latest newsletter here. Even easier? Subscribe here to get the future issues delivered directly to your inbox.

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