Porchfork? Lollaporchlooza? No, it's Oak Park Porchfest

Local concert series brings musical acts to Oak Park neighborhoods

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Oak Park has joined a movement spreading across the country: bringing people together where they live for music and camaraderie.

Oak Park Porchfest has been up and running since May, hosting a handful of porch concerts around the village, attracting small audiences of about 100 people who bring lawn chairs and sit in while they listen to local bands and meet their neighbors.

Cheryl Wisniewski, founder of Porchfest, said it's not a new concept.

Groups in Lakeview and other areas in and around Chicago have been holding porch concerts over the past year or so, along with other cities around the country.

Wisniewski heard about a one-day, multi-porch event — think of it as a homespun Lollapalooza — in Lakeview last year and she saw it as "a cool little trend."

The next Oak Park Porchfest concert is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 9, at 735 Wesley Ave. from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The show will feature Jim Haptonstahl and Kristin Young. Another Porchfest concert is planned for Aug. 16 with Sweet Kay at Falling Stars, 138 S. East Ave., also from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Wisniewski said the concert series is organized on a shoestring budget — "Our budget at this point is negative," she says — and she still can't afford to pay the bands. But they pass the hat and collect donations for the performers.

The most recent concert with artists Cheryl Tomblin and Kettlestrings became a fundraiser for organizations working on issues concerning immigration, Wisniewski said.

The genres of music have been somewhat varied, ranging from roots rock to bluegrass to singer-songwriter acts, but Wisniewski said she wants to bring more diversity to the lineups. 

"Next year, I want to be more intentional about reaching different groups," she said.

The shows have the feel of a block party, she said, but the organizers are mindful of keeping kids and other concert-goers off the streets.

"We're definitely vigilant," she said, noting that the shows are "always on the front porch and people bring blankets and chairs.

"People on the block have been supportive," she said.

Wisniewski said she wanted to organize the shows because she feels people these days are so disconnected and crave interaction with neighbors.

"A lot of things happen in Oak Park that give connection but not always on your block and hyperlocal," she said. "This gives you a chance to connect and slow down and just be there for two hours."


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Cheryl Wisniewski  

Posted: August 7th, 2019 1:36 PM

Thank you for this great write-up! I also want to thank my co-coordinators Tara Dull and Jason Baker for helping to make this a reality. We're a mighty little team! It's been an amazing community effort with volunteers taking photos, helping with sound, and more. We're excited to see where this goes in the future, but for now, we appreciate the love! Hope to see everyone on August 19th and 16th! I just want to clarify one minor point...our budget is actually $0 and it's "negative" because we've put our money into it for Facebook advertising, banners, and such. We're not any kind of business entity that's running in the red.

Jim Frenkel  

Posted: August 6th, 2019 4:51 PM

Now THIS is wonderful! And something that feels very OP!

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