By Louisa Hufstader
Napa Porchfest Returns for 4th Year
They say there’s a book in all of us – stories about entrepreneurial achievements, autobiographies, historical novels, or maybe even epic sport contests.
On the last Sunday of every July, Napa comes alive with music as scores of local bands and solo performers showcase their sounds
for thousands of listeners in the city’s historic neighborhoods.
Napa Porchfest — coming up July 27, 2014 from 1 to 6 p.m. — puts performers on porches for an afternoon of free, live entertainment that covers the musical map from classical and folk to rock, jazz, electronica and, occasionally, genre-defying, performance art.
“Out of the garage and onto the porch” is the unofficial motto of this all-volunteer festival, which has been a hit with locals since its inception in 2011. Last year’s Porchfest presented 84 Napa acts on 42 porches, and drew more than 4,000 people to neighborhood streets where they strolled, biked, skateboarded and Segwayed from house to house, often posting their adventures on social media:
“Awesome community event!! Bringing neighbors and generations together. Well done.” (Facebook comment)
“We sipped cool refreshments, visited with friends new and old while we listened to some really awesome music. What a great way to spend the day!! Thank you to everyone for making this day extra special.” (Facebook comment)
“Biking around the neighborhoods for this event was especially nice this year because I was with a guest from Missouri who had never been to Napa and was smiling all the way.” (napavalleyregister.com comment)
“Porchfest is our homegrown, hometown, most favorite event!” (Festival co-founder Juliana Inman in a Facebook review)
Street closure in the works
“The 2014 festival will retain some of the most popular Porchfest elements from 2013, including food trucks and T-shirt sales at the Napa County Library,” said co-founder and music coordinator, Thea Witsil.
A similar downtown hub is expected to pop up behind City Winery at the Napa Valley Opera House. “They’re going to build a porch behind the Opera House” for performers, and there will be room for food trucks there as well,” she said.
Along with refreshments, shade and seating for the weary, these public Porchfest hosts also provide bathroom facilities not available in most neighborhood areas.
For the first time, Porchfest organizers and the city of Napa are working to close a city street during the festival. It likely will be Oak Street, where traffic-clogging crowds have gathered during each previous year.
“The deadline for musicians to sign up is March 31, and by Valentine’s Day 48 groups had already claimed spots on the Porchfest roster,” Witsil said.
“It’s basically first come, first served,” she explained. “You want to play, you get to play.”
Performers wishing to take part in the 2014 festival should email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, although the sign-up process is slated to be automated soon: Thanks to profits from Napa Porchfest T-shirts, sold last year for the first time, “we can actually pay somebody to do our website” (napaporchfest.org), Witsil said. Once redesigned, the website will have a signup form for musicians.
Sponsored in its first year by Witsil’s First Street boutique and Napa County Landmarks, with a budget of less than $100, Napa Porchfest gained DoNapa.com as an additional sponsor after its 2011 debut earned rave reviews from visitors as well as locals.
Porchfest can also claim bragging rights for having inspired the much larger, admission-charging, BottleRock Festival, which made its debut in 2013 and returned this May 30 through June 1, under new management.
Witsil books the Napa talent for BottleRock’s, Barracuda Wildcat Stage at Chardonnay Hall. And, while she makes it clear that it’s not a “Porchfest stage,” some of her Porchfest favorites will be
appearing, she said.
“There are certainly not a lot of venues” for Napa musicians, she said. “That’s why we create these things.”
The original Porchfest was founded in Ithaca, N.Y. in 2007, and has inspired similar festivals in many other communities. Napa’s is the first Porchfest to be established west of Cleveland.
Follow Napa Porchfest on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Napa-Porchfest/198470643510714
On Twitter: @NapaPorchfest