SHELBURNE FALLS – The sounds of music, poetry and stand-up comedy filled the air in Shelburne Falls on Saturday afternoon.
The village, which includes the towns of Shelburne and Buckland, hosted its second annual Porch Festival. The event, which was hosted last year by now 14-year-old Dorothy Strano-Bennett and her father, generated enough interest that they wanted to start over.
“I love walking down the street hearing everyone talk about it – I’m not like the one who organized it. It’s like I’m undercover, ”Strano-Bennett said. “It’s really fun.”
Paul Bennett, Dorothy’s father, said he had to take the reins this year because his daughter was busy.
“I’m the only one left to organize it, so I did it even though I didn’t qualify,” Bennett said. “Everything worked. ”
Bennett hosted a comedy show on his porch where he told jokes on topics ranging from the pandemic – “Did everyone have a good pandemic?” He joked – in his days as a divorced father in New York.
Susie Berger, who moved to Shelburne during the pandemic, said the Porch Festival is a “great mix” of different types of art.
“Hearing stand-up comedy is not something you see in a small village,” Berger said after the Bennett show. “I moved to Shelburne from New York and feel like I get a lot more culture here.”
Bennett’s comedic routine was just one of many performances scheduled for the day. Mohammad Yaseen, co-owner of Bridge Street Bazaar, said he used the Porch Festival to unveil the company’s new community patio as a place for people to have lunch and relax while spending time in Shelburne Falls.
“We opened it for the Porch Festival,” Yaseen said. “We always try to bring people. … We want them to spend the day and spend their money locally.
He added that “sharing is caring” regarding the space in the village and he hopes to host more musical performances beyond the Porch Festival in the future.
“We just wanted to do something beautiful and match the Bridge of Flowers,” Yaseen said. “We want to let anyone come and have lunch and listen to music.”
The Bridge Street Bazaar is also looking for donated picnic tables to further fill the space as it evolves.
Sheryl Stanton, director of the Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont Regional school districts, performed Americana and other original music at Bridge Street Bazaar. She said she couldn’t perform very well due to her job responsibilities, but was happy to participate.
“I love the atmosphere,” Stanton said. “It was great, but with the view of the river it was hard to focus. … It was a real treat to come out here and play.
The people sitting on the patio weren’t the only ones enjoying the music, as spectators could also be seen listening to the show on the Flower Bridge.
Stanton said the event is a great one for Shelburne Falls and she hopes to see it happen again in the future.
“I would really love to see it take off,” Stanton said. “We can enjoy what is really special in our community. ”
Buckland Selectboard president Dena Willmore, who was watching Stanton play, said she stumbled across the event last year and wanted to come back as soon as she heard it was happening again.
“It’s such a great idea,” Willmore said. “I hope this will become a tradition.”
She said the event “has a lot of potential” and she thought it was a great way to start the community’s comeback as the pandemic wears off.
“When you have a small town like ours with all these porches, what a great idea,” Willmore said.
Shanti Starr and her band, The Afro-Reggae All Stars, performed at 5 p.m. on the porch of Bridge Street Bazaar to close the evening.
Starr, who spent part of her childhood in Shelburne Falls, said the patio was an “incredible space for the performing arts” and that she was happy to help “break it up.”
“No one else has that sight,” Starr said, looking towards the Flower Bridge. “Making live music here is so special.”
Like Willmore, Starr said the Porch Festival is great for “getting people out” and can help the city recover from the pandemic.
“Let the live music come back to Shelburne Falls,” Starr said. “It’s like a rebirth.
Asked about the positive feedback and if that means he will have to continue hosting the event, Paul Bennett laughed and said the idea was intimidating, but that he wanted the Porch Festival to come back because he can bring together the community.
“It’s awesome and scary. … We have to start earlier (next year), ”Bennett said. “I think art is a great way to connect.”
Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.