Looks like there really will be fiddlers on the roof in Ithaca soon, or at least on the porch.
From folk to hip-hop to jazz, the streets and porches of downtown Ithaca will be filled with more than 90 musical acts for the fifth annual Porchfest, a free music festival, from 1 to 5:30 p.m. today.
The first year of Porchfest, there were 20 performers and one time slot. But this year, there are more than 100 performers and three time slots. During each time frame, attendees can walk around and listen to different types of music.
Gretchen Hildreth and Lesley Greene, two residents of the Fall Creek neighborhood in Ithaca, started the festival five years ago. Hildreth said the idea is to bring people together through song and dance.
“It’s a way for people who live in the community to see the talents of their neighbors that they may not have known about,” she said.
As Hildreth walked through her neighborhood in 2007, she heard Greene’s husband playing his ukulele on his front porch. Hildreth and Greene got to talking and decided to make a festival featuring local talent.
“Somehow a light bulb went off in both of our heads and we said, ‘Let’s make a festival out of it,’” Hildreth said. “So we went for it, and it was a huge success.”
Hildreth said she believes Porchfest is a great way for people to get out and play their music.
“Our neighborhood is so full of talented people, so for people who don’t get to play often, it’s a chance to be on stage,” she said.
Porchfest performers include many different genres and artists, such as the Grady Girl, a band made up of sisters and cousins who perform Irish Traditional Music.
Also performing at Porchfest is the folk duo, Nate and Kate. Nate and Kate have performed at Porchfest all five years. Band member Nate Marshall was especially surprised by the size of the crowd it brings each year.
“The magic is the turn out,” he said. “The first year that we did it we thought it was just going to be rehearsal on our lawn, then there were like 60 people just standing in our lawn, and then the next year there were like 200, it’s so cool.”
Hildreth and Greene have been impressed with the number of performers Porchfest brings together each year. While there is no real way to tally how many attend, they estimate the number is well into the hundreds.
“From the first year to now it’s really quadrupled,” Hildreth said. “One of the things that is exciting for me about this year is that there are a lot more younger performers and there are also many more performers in general.”
Robert Sullivan, associate professor of communication studies at Ithaca College, has attended Porchfest for three years now.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “It’s a real Ithaca experience in which you get to encounter the amazing variety of musical talent and to really celebrate the cultural life, particularly in Fall Creek.”
Sullivan says his favorite aspect of Porchfest is the musical variety. He said he loves that there are so many genres represented.
“It’s really quite unique,” he said. “It is such a positive event I would just recommend everybody do it, it’s a great experience.”
Porchfest spectators can pick up a map of the neighborhood at one of the three pickup locations; Hickey’s, Guitar Works and Gimme! Coffee on Cayuga Street. The map shows who will be playing at certain times and where the bands will be playing.
There will also be a chance for attendees to make their own music. Emoretta Yang, who teaches the course “Ukuleles as a Second Language,” will be teaching others to play. There will also be storytellers and sing-alongs.
When the music is done at 5:30 p.m., participants will head to the Auburn Street “triangle” park for more fun and music.
Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services will be sponsoring the event. This is Porchfest’s first sponsor. Greene said having a sponsor alleviates financial strain for the event. INHS will cover some event expenses such as posters, photocopies, graphic designers, artists and T-shirts.
“It just really takes the pressure off,” Greene said.
Porchfest will take place from 1 to 5:30 p.m. today in the Fall Creek and Northside neighborhoods in Ithaca.