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'Porchapalooza' bonds neighborhood, celebrates local music

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Posted at 5:21 PM, Aug 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-09 01:58:17-04

MENASHA (NBC 26) — Since 2015, the Jefferson Park neighborhood in Menasha has been host to a special local festival.

On a pre-selected Tuesday in summer, neighbors along Broad Street offer up their porches to host local musicians who will play live music sets from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

It's called "Porchapalooza," and Mary Jo Weidert and her late husband Joe are the two who started it all.

“We had, I think 12 or 13 porches the first year. That was a huge undertaking. And yeah, it took a little bit of organizing because it was just pretty much Joe and I,” said Weidert.

Mary Jo's front porch has hosted many artists over the years.

“My husband, Joe Weidert, wanted to see a way to bring neighbors together. We had lived here for 14 years and we did not know a lot of neighbors yet. So, he thought: music is a great way to do this,” she said.

Every year since the first, the celebration has continued and welcomed a consistently rotating roster of local artists. The only exception was the first summer of the global pandemic.

“It's all about friends. Everybody, you know, coming together and just meeting as friends and having fun, and, you know, the music on my porch," said Jefferson Park neighbor Penny Gustafson.

Gustafson said she doesn't have to help find or book the artists, and she doesn't have to provide any equipment. She is just happy to say yes when organizers reach out to her about using her porch.

"I usually set up chairs, and we all sit up front — and some people bring their own chairs; some people don't — and we just talk and have fun, and everybody sits for a while and then moves along to the next one. But it's definitely a great time and I look forward to it every year," Gustafson said.

To see all of the acts during the event, you'd have to spend about 15 minutes at a venue and then move along.

Sometimes, the porch hosts are also artists, like co-organizer Chris Evenson. He sings and plays bass in a duo called Olsen & Evenson.

“I got involved as a local musician. Because I had contacts to arrange some of the bookings of friends of ours. If you know who's playing around you can send out feelers and get people arranged,” Evenson said.

Organizers said they spend all year scouting talent for this very special summer day each year.

"Many of us go to a lot of live music here and there throughout the winter months, and we pick up people's business cards. We like to get, you know, fresh talent on the porches each year," Mary Jo said.

But one advantage of this event over other traditional settings for live music is that this one is family-friendly.

"The children are a wonderful element that you don't have in a tavern or some of the other venues, so that's been wonderful,” Evenson said.

Everyone involved said they expect this to be a tradition that stands the test of time.

“People love to talk about it after. If you're walking your dog down the street after, people say, ‘Oh, great Porchapalooza,’ or ‘Oh, I saw such and such,’ and yeah, it is – it's a good way to get a conversation going and, and to meet people — because there's always new people moving in,” said Mary Jo.

Becoming better neighbors is a cause that organizers said will always be worth the coordination.

Porchapalooza is an event that has spread to Doty Island and Appleton as well.

The next concerts will be at:

  • Hart Park on Tuesday, August 15 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and
  • Doty Island on Thursday, August 24 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

For updates on the events, you can check out the Front Porch Music in the Fox Cities Facebook page.