An end-of-summer effort to build community ties
By Grace Menchaca
When’s the last time you talked to your neighbor? Whether it’s been recently or awhile, the annual Kutzky Park Porchfest is the perfect opportunity to bond with the Rochester community over wholesome Midwest music and food. You may call it a Minnesota nice festival, but hot dishes are not required.
Kutzky Park, located in the near-northwest region of Rochester, is a center of community activity. The park sits near Cascade Creek and holds recreational amenities such as an open field, a paved trail, a playground and more. During the summer months, the park is bustling with locals and their agendas to enjoy and soak up the summer sun. As summer winds down and autumn picks up, the Kutzky neighborhood will clean out their garages, lawns and porches for new visitors this September.
MY PORCH IS YOUR PORCH
What is a porchfest? Well, it’s exactly as named. The Kutzky Park neighborhood members offer their porches and garages as stages for local bands. Some members take an extra step and decorate their property. Interestingly, there are over 130 known porchfests in North America, with some of the first originating out of Ithaca, New York. Minneapolis is also a listed porchfest city in Minnesota.
Jesse Welsh, founder of Kutzky Park Porchfest and former president of the Kutzky Park Neighborhood Association, discovered the idea of the event in 2016. “I lived in the neighborhood at the time and wanted to give back by creating this day for everyone,” she says. “Some hosts offer beverages and snacks, but mostly the bands just set up and people come with their chairs and coolers. It is a very organic and casual event.” The Rochester community reacted positively to the first porchfest. A staggering attendance of over 300 people validated the need for a neighborhood tradition.
NEW AND FAMILIAR FACES
One of those traditions is hiring Midwest musicians to play their tunes in a bohemian setting. This year’s Kutzky porchfest will have a number of returning bands. Ravensfire, a traditional Irish and instrumental music group, followed by solo artists Liv Gordon and Tessa Stites, will make a recurring appearance, along with a lineup of new artists. The Walking Beat, Fred the Bear, Luke Hendrickson, Bells & Whistles, JT & The Gunslingers and Neil Young Tribute are performing for the first time at the Kutzky music scene. Each performance is designated a 45-minute play time on a compilation of neighborhood properties.
The best way to navigate Kutzky is to keep an open ear, and it will lead from there. Otherwise, your nose will lead you. Twisted Barrel Pizza, The Wandering Scoop and Cafe Presto are the main food vendors for this year’s event. Twisted Barrel Pizza is noted for hand-crafted and locally sourced ingredients with a wood-fire cooking method for their pizzas. But one food vendor is doing something different. To celebrate the end of the festivities, Cafe Presto will be hosting a final performance block party in sponsorship with The Berkman and Alatus, LLC. The block party will be the last call for attendees to socialize and network before the garages close and the porch lights turn off.
A GOOD TIME DOESN’T HAVE TO COST A DIME
Another notable aspect about the porchfest—it’s free! Well, consider good conversation and neighborly bonding as payment. “We don’t ask anything of the public and just want them to come and enjoy the afternoon,” Welsh notes about community donations. “If people want to support neighborhoods or the arts, I encourage them to get involved with their neighborhood association, attend live shows throughout Rochester and shop at small businesses.”
Arguably, events such as Kutzky Park Porchfest give a sense of comradery and stability among a vastly changing city. When asked about her fondest memory of Kutzky Park Porchfest, Welsh explains, “We all get so caught up in our schedules and activities that we can forget to simply go outside and enjoy a gathering of new and old friends.” She continues, “This event brings people together, young and old, and I love walking around to see the human connection of this event. It is truly heartwarming.”
SEE YOU THERE, NEIGHBOR
Since taking the lead position of the event in 2016, Welsh seems to find her gratitude for the results of Kutzky Park Porchfest in the people around her. “I have had a lot of help from great friends and community partners over the years,” Welsh reflects. “Even after leaving Kuzky Park, it is still something I love working on every year.” Kutzky Park Porchfest in Rochester is part of an emerging communication and relationship development effort to give locals a day to connect over great music and food. While you listen and eat, don’t forget to say “hi” to the people next to you. After all, they are your neighbors.
This year’s Kutzky Park Porchfest will be September 14 from 2:30 to 7:00 p.m.
For more information, follow the Kutzky Park Porchfest Facebook event page. facebook.com/kutzkyparkporchfest
Grace Menchaca is a student at Winona State University and aspiring freelance writer.