Front Porch Days brings county residents together

Photo submitted to Times Observer Bonnie MIller (left) and Lynda Church celebrate Warren County Front Porch Days. Miller and Church live in apartments and, because they don’t have front porches, sat on a bench along the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue in Warren and welcomed visitors there.

There were probably people all over the world this weekend celebrating Front Porch Days without even knowing it.

There are very few requirements — not even a front porch — for the event.

Basically, people have to be outside and social.

The third annual Warren County Front Porch Days brought people together all over the county.

That’s all it’s about.

Photo submitted to Times Observer Selma Billingsley and her grandson, Samuel McCaig, welcome visitors to her front porch during Warren County Front Porch Days.

“The theme is, ‘Connect with neighbors,'” one of the event’s organizers, Gary Lester, said.

No front porch? Front porch too small to welcome visitors? No problem.

“We include driveways, front yards, closed-off blocks and any other venues that fit the theme,” Lester said.

There is nothing to buy, nor sell. If people want to offer snacks or drinks to their visitors, they can.

There is no hard-and-fast start nor end time. As long as there are people sitting near their homes and there are people passing by to talk to, the event was still going.

There is no driving required. It’s not about visiting someone else’s neighborhood, but that’s not discouraged.

As the event isn’t predicated upon raising money, tracking it is hit-and-miss.

“We don’t know how widespread the action is,” Lester said. “We found interest and a contact person in the major communities, and it appeared at least as a conversation point at township and village meetings.”

Social media posts help the organizers find pockets of participation.

On Sunday, there was an optional part of the event at Betts Park.

“The sing-along was great,” Lester said. “Close to 60 people and most were excellent and very lively singers.”

“We did folk music, old-time classics, show tunes, patriotic songs, and filled an hour-and-a-half,” he said. There was other entertainment as well, including a magic show by John Beard.

The event has come a long way.

For about 30 years, it was just an idea. Organizers had been at an event where a musician sang, and talked, lamenting the increased use of backyards and the loss of community spirit that accompanied a decrease in time spent on front porches.

When they asked him for more details, he didn’t have any, Lester said. He’d made it up on the spot.

But, they agreed with, and remembered, the sentiment.

Many years after that, and a few years ago, Doug Hearn was walking home from work. Marge and Pete Smith were sitting on their front porch, along Hearn’s path home. They invited him to sit with them.

“Doug was charmed by the warmth and hospitality, and wrote a letter to the editor to that effect,” Lester said. “That re-kindled the interest of the group that was exposed to the idea decades ago and we made it come to fruition.”

The organizers, now including Hearn, got together and set up the inaugural Front Porch Day.

They tracked down Bill Kimmons of Bare Bones, the singer who inspired the event. He attended and led a sing-along in 2021.

There is plenty of room for the event to grow.

“We like to pipe dream about Warren County being ‘The Home of National Front Porch Days’ but haven’t gotten beyond the county,” Lester said.

That’s good enough.

The event doesn’t have a lot of monetary needs.

“ERA real estate is a sponsor since it’s cool to say to potential newcomers: ‘Warren County is the home of Front Porch Days,'” Lester said. “It shows it’s a friendly, welcoming community.”

If people want to visit Warren County to celebrate Front Porch Days, they are welcome. But tourism promotion is not its goal.

Lester, who is a member of an organization in which members get together to play kazoos, knows that not everything has to be about the bottom line.

“People do stuff for the fun of it and for altruistic fulfillment all the time,” he said. “It’s about getting to know neighbors.”


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