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Buzz Grows For Jamaica Plain Porchfest

Mindy Fried, left, and Marie Ghitman, seen here on Fried's porch, are the co-organizers of Jamaica Plain Porchfest.
Mindy Fried, left, and Marie Ghitman, seen here on Fried’s porch, are the co-organizers of Jamaica Plain Porchfest.

The buzz around Jamaica Plain Porchfest is getting out of hand. Co-organizer Marie Ghitman can’t get a tow without the repairperson enthusiastically promising to bring his family from Mattapan.

Ghitman and Mindy Fried, who came up with the idea of matching local bands with local porches for an afternoon of music and community-building, took a break Thursday morning from organizing the event to talk about the amazing response they’ve had from local residents and musicians.

Ghitman got the ball rolling about a year ago when she heard about Somerville’s Porchfest.

“We thought, ‘We have great porches and great musicians,’ so we should have a Porchfest,” Ghitman said.

They figured they’d start small with three porches. But that was before they started telling folks about the idea on social media.

“There’s something really infectious about it,” Ghitman said. The
Facebook page about the event already has 590 “likes.” The buzz has grown to the point that Porchfest even got a shout-out on WBUR’s “Radio Boston” this week. (It’s at the 13:44 mark of the linked video, by the way.)

The two had originally thought they’d start small, with a cap of three porches. But as the level of interest became clear, that cap rapidly rose. They’ve hit more than thirty porches and, with the festival just around the corner, have made the cap final. There will be 60 bands participating, with a range of musical styles from classical to country to Mozambican world.

The event’s website has a full interactive map of porches and bands.

While it’s easy to see how much fun an event like this could be, it’s aimed at a serious problem — although Jamaica Plain gets lauded for its diversity, neighbors can be surprisingly isolated from one another.

Fried said the July 19 event’s aim is “using music to help people cross boundaries.”

One example: The neighborhood’s most well-known affordable housing advocate, Betsaida Gutiérrez, told Fried she felt disconnected from her new neighbors on Chestnut Avenue. So, Doña Betsaida’s home will be one of the porches — and she’s thrilled to get to cook for visitors, Fried said.

The city, which could have effectively shut down the idea of a porchfest by requiring a blizzard of permits, was actually very supportive, Fried and Ghitman said. For instance, they held a meeting early on with Karin Goodfellow, director of the Boston Arts Commission. Goodfellow lives in JP and is an enthusiastic supporter.

With a few exceptions, the bands will all be on private property. The music will be from noon to 4 p.m. on a Saturday, when few folks will be trying to sleep. And Fried and Ghitman have also told neighborhood police. The BPD has also been supportive, the two report.

Other steps organizers are taking is appointing “Porch Fun Managers” for each venue. Their jobs are to make sure no one is trampling flower beds, blocking traffic, etc. And they’re charged with reaching out to neighbors to make sure everyone nearby knows to expect live music that Saturday afternoon.

While Porchest 2014 is booked as far as bands and porches, Fried and Ghitman may still have use for a few more volunteers. If you’re interested in helping out, drop them a note on the Porchfest Facebook page or email Fried or Ghitman.