The Iowa City neighborhood is gearing up for another afternoon of song

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How is a music festival like a pocket meadow?

On Sunday afternoon, September 25, the seventh annual Front Porch Music Festival will once again bloom in Iowa City’s Longfellow neighborhood. Bill McKibben can be blamed for this extended metaphor; a passage from his book “Oil and Honey” made me think of cyclical and linear processes. Like a pocket meadow, the Front Porch Music Festival returns every year in roughly the same size and location.

Prairie plants have remarkably deep roots that grow over years, and below the surface, mycorrhizal networks extend and connect individual limbs in a supportive and holding bond. The prairie is a site of dense biodiversity; during the migration season, it welcomes all kinds of visitors, often for mutual benefit. It is small—pocket! – and remains free from any imperative to grow or expand.

The beauty of cyclical patterns is how they illuminate subtle changes, marking the passage of time. In September, the Longfellow neighborhood will once again host a music festival rooted in the quirky and unpretentious. The Front Porch Music Festival invites listeners and music makers everywhere to spend an afternoon with friends and neighbors and tap into the community-building potential of song.

From 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on September 25, musicians of all genres and styles, of all ages and abilities, are invited to play a set on a porch or courtyard, while spectators are invited to listen to their way through the neighborhood. As I was considering writing a reflection praising smallness and uniformity, I thought I’d better present some reasons why someone might be interested in this event. The following ideas came to mind:

  • It will deliver the unexpected. Like many, I like to be taken by surprise. Even as a co-organizer, I have savored unexpected delights at each past festival. In many cases, that means seeing another side of someone I thought I knew inside out.
  • It will be a place of meetings and reunions. Bonding is desired but not necessarily guaranteed at events. This particular music festival is open-air, small-scale, and the performer-audience spaces are front yards and sidewalks. Neighborhood discussions are built into its bones.
  • It will inspire. The players and singers contributing to this afternoon of music are a diverse mix of experience and comfort level. May we all be so brave.
  • This will give Longfellow’s neighbors an opportunity to extend their hospitality. I will cherish the memory of playing on my neighbor’s porch while he danced exuberantly next to me. Charming lemonade and cookie stands staffed by very young entrepreneurs have enlivened past festivals. Hospitality is one of those beautiful qualities that blesses both the receiver and the giver.

Everyone is welcome. We hope to see you on September 25. For up-to-date information and a list of artists, check out the full program at frontporchmusicfestival.com.

Diane Platte is an organizer of the Front Porch Music Festival, along with Nathan Platte and Trevor and Sara Harvey. They love their neighborhood.

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