Party on the Porches

Noelle Salcido and Shaylan Frisby of the band Head Strong perform "Holiday" by Green Day at 7430 Hanna Street during Porchfest Gilroy Sept. 20.

Small groups of neighbors and community members gathered in front of homes on Hanna Street Sept. 20, as bands of all types played from the front porches in one Gilroy’s historic neighborhoods.
Organizers Carol DeSantis, Barbara Bottini and Eileen Cuevas said they hope the event, known as Porchfest Gilroy, will become an annual tradition to bring the community together and provide bands and singers with opportunities to showcase their talents. This year’s festivities, inspired by similar events around the country, included 20 acts performing on 12 porches on the block.
The trio didn’t have a specific number of attendees they hoped to see at the event, Bottini said, nor were they keeping track Saturday. In fact, they were hoping the event would stay relatively small during the first year. Bottini added, however, “So far I am very pleased with the turnout.”
“I really like it,” 15-year-old Colette Howard said. “It is really hard to find things like this Gilroy.”
Howard was seated alongside her sister, Shea, in front of their house as local band, the Usuals, played from their porch. The sisters were selling bottled water and cookies to raise money to send Shea to a girl’s leadership camp in New York City. Both girls said they admired the performers.
“I think it is a good opportunity for aspiring musicians,” Shea said. “I wouldn’t mind (participating in the future).”
Moriah Silva, a member of The Usuals, was performing alongside Brian Freimurth and said she was excited to have the opportunity to entertain a local audience. Some familiar faces in the crowd included her singing coach, Kris Ellis.
“I like how we all get to come out as a community,” Silva, a junior at Sobrato High School, said. “I can’t wait for this to become a popular thing.”
Freimurth agreed.
“It’s a lot of fun. I think an idea like this has a lot of potential,” he said.
DeSantis, Bottini and Cuevas spent more than a year planning Porchfest, which began with seeking permission from every homeowner on the block from Third Street to Sixth Street in order to receive the required permit from the City of Gilroy. Bottini said it took approximately two months of knocking on doors. Those in the neighborhood were supportive of the idea and Bottini said 12 homeowners offered their porches as venues for the 20 bands and performers who signed up to participate.
One neighbor liked the idea so much he offered to get involved, Bottini said. After knocking on the door of Marty Anderson of JaM Pro Web Design, he offered to design and manage the Porchfest website. The website was an integral part of getting the word out about the event.
“We were very fortunate to have Marty,” Bottini said.
Local groups and businesses offered support, help that was especially important given that organizers paid out of their own pockets for event expenses, as well as organized a yard sale to raise funds. All told, the event cost more than $700 to bring to life.
The local Veteran of Foreign Wars gave a grant to organizers to cover insurance for the city, which the Gilroy Arts Alliance helped administer. BookSmart and The Printing Spot helped with printing needs and Bay Sierra Properties provided signs marking the way to participating homes during the event.
Porcellas Musical Instruments and Accessories played an important role in preparations as well, helping the organizers connect with local artists.
During the planning process, organizers looked to websites outlining other Porchfest events for inspiration. Additionally, Bottini and DeSantis attended a similar event in Napa.
“People stuck to the sidewalks (in Napa), were well behaved and stayed for entire sets,” DeSantis said. “We saw senior citizens and young couples with little kids … this is what we were really looking for.”
Janet Thompson, a blue grass singer who had just finished performing at Saturday’s event with her husband, Mike, and friend Eric Behlmer, said that she thought the idea of Porchfest was a great way “to get the neighbors together.”
“I think it is a great event,” Behlmer said. “I’m really pleased with the people who came by and how supportive they are.”
Melissa Bennett, a Gilroy resident who came to Porchfest with her children after hearing about the event on Facebook, said she enjoyed the event.
“It’s great … a nice way to spend the afternoon,” Bennett said.