There’s nothing like a neighborhood party to get introduced to a community.With a few thousand showing up to Forest Hill Avenue on Sunday, Porchfest offered an accessible outlet for local artists and a breezy atmosphere to delve into Mid-Missouri culture.Thirty-five musical acts, eight visual artists, an artisanal food artist and an author were spread out across the 13 porch stages. Some were scheduled for the event’s full four hours while others performed for about an hour.”It’s kind of a big neighborhood block party,” said Phil Stiles, JC Parks special events program manager. “I think that’s part of the atmosphere and fun for people.”Porchfest is a cultural arts fair spread out across the front porches of houses throughout a neighborhood. The Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department has hosted the event about twice a year for the past five years, usually picking different neighborhoods to showcase.It’s tied to a national festival that began in New York to bring attention to neighborhoods in need of revitalization, JC Parks Cultural Arts Specialist Leann Porrello said.Porchfest returned to Forest Hill Avenue this fall, just down the street from the Blues in the Park festival in Memorial Park. The neighborhood also hosted Porchfest last fall, which attracted more than 2,000 people after a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.Lee Pearson and his family live on Forest Hill and took time Sunday to walk around, enjoy the music and play games.”It’s cool,” he said. “It can be a little stressful because it’s like all on your street, but it’s great. It’s awesome to see a bunch of people having fun and it’s great for the kids.”With a young child at home, Pearson said they passed on hosting any bands this year.”A lot of the local ones you kind of know just from being in the town,” he said. “It’s great, kids can go up and just be goofy and dance.”The length of about 30 houses were lined with food trucks serving up fresh popcorn, cookies, cotton candy, snow cones, lemonade and lunch items.Down the middle of the street, interactive art opportunities had children engaging in games, tie-dying shirts, getting temporary tattoos and writing on clothespins, which will be made into wreaths through the Clothespin Kindness Project.The main attraction was the approximately 23 simultaneous art scenes happening up and down the street on people’s yards and porches.In addition to the live musical performances, attendees gathered to watch pottery making, canvas paintings, wood-burning demonstrations and Columbia muralist Adrienne Luther fill out a wooden wall.Luther, a Jefferson City native who was also present for last spring’s Porchfest, said her mural was inspired by her surroundings throughout the day — the fall weather, a nice breeze and the characters in the crowd. She said she doesn’t often get the opportunity to freely paint because she’s usually tied to layers of drafts.”I love it,” Luther said. “It’s really nice to be able to paint and socialize because usually it’s one or the other.”Small Missouri communities like Jefferson City provide a rich opportunity to meet people and dive into the community, she said.”I think post-COVID, we get this renaissance of people coming back out and showing their crafts and connecting with each other,” Luther said. “On one of the last days of open windows, it’s nice to be able to say, ‘Hey,’ to everybody before we all kind of go into our little winter hibernation.”The music entertainment offered something for everyone: pop, country, blues, jazz and even Irish jigs.It’s the first event where a majority of the acts are entirely new, Porrello said.Stiles said local acts are constantly reaching out to play the event.”This is a really popular event to showcase local talent and a lot of people who are in bands or small groups, they like to participate in this,” Stiles said. “I think word’s getting out that it’s a neat event to showcase talent.”Nancy Ames visited different porches while her husband performed at 115 Forest Hill with the Blues Boys.”I’ve heard his music a lot so it’s kind of fun to go hear other stuff,” she said.Ames and her husband moved to Jefferson City from Portland, Oregon, about five years ago, she said. They’re retired and found music to be a good avenue for connecting with the community.Just in the past five years, Ames said Porchfest has grown “huge” and the cultural arts aspect of it has become more prominent.Her husband plays any opportunity he can get, she said.”It’s a good way to stimulate community and meet new people, and I think it builds the arts up in Jefferson City,” she said. “I love this Porchfest. I think it’s a wonderful idea.”Related:Blues in the Park attracts largest crowd yet    Ryan Pivoney/News Tribune Apostle’s Creek was the first of three bands to perform at 125 Forest Hill Avenue for Sunday’s Porchfest. The five-person band was joined by visual artist Amy Greenback at the location.      Ryan Pivoney/News Tribune Columbia muralist Adrienne Luther returned to Porchfest on Sunday to paint a live mural in front of 111 Forest Hill Avenue as Courteney Martin performed on the porch. Luther said the art was inspired by her surroundings on Sunday, including the fall weather and people she met throughout the day.      Ryan Pivoney/News Tribune The Blues Boys performed on the front lawn of 115 Forest Hill Avenue for Sunday’s Porchfest. Their performance was followed up by Double Vision and Cousins McDaniel at the same location.      Ryan Pivoney/News Tribune Sarah Weaver (left) and Zoie Bentley strategize their next move against Kaleb Harrill during a large chess game Sunday at Porchfest. After Weaver and Bentley moved a pawn, Harrill swiftly took it off the board.      Ryan Pivoney/News Tribune The Irish Players were the first of three performers at 105 Forest Hill Avenue for Sunday’s Porchfest. Their Irish jigs greeted the cultural arts festival attendees as they started their journey into the Forest Hill neighborhood.      Ryan Pivoney/News Tribune Scott Gehlert performed first at 107 Forest Hill Avenue, bringing Nancy Ames (right) to her feet to dance. Gehlert was first to take the porch stage, followed by local artists Mike Callahan and Sarah and Mark.  

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