PorchFest 2019: Longer runtime, more bands, more food

OSWEGO — The fifth annual Oswego PorchFest this Sunday will be an hour longer than previous years, with three new food trucks added to accommodate the free community music festival’s exponential growth in popularity.

Nearly 70 music acts are scheduled to perform from 1 to 6 p.m. in the neighborhoods surrounding Franklin Square and Montcalm parks on the city’s west side. Event organizers expect roughly 4,000 local and regional music lovers to attend.

PorchFest 2019 will also feature food trucks from Oswego’s 3.21 Salads, which recently opened a location on East Bridge Street, Baldwinsville’s Cheez Pleaze and Roberts Family Mobile Barbecue of Pulaski. Last year featured a total of 55 artists who played from 1 to 5 p.m., with only a single food truck for the entire event.

PorchFest has grown in performers and sponsors every year since its modest formation in 2015, when the 17-act line-up drew an estimated 400, according to the Oswego PorchFest Committee. This Sunday, 20 acts will fill the 3-4 p.m. slot alone, and a total of 68 artists will perform overall for a projected audience of roughly 4,000 people, based on last year’s attendance. 

“People love music, they love performances and it’s free; it’s mostly area people performing and I think it’s a way for them to give back to the community who has supported them all year long,” said Oswego PorchFest founder Gerri Millar in an interview with The Palladium-Times on Monday. “It’s not a fundraiser for anything, not that that’s a bad thing, but people just enjoy it, and it’s just a beautiful neighborhood.”

Millar said the idea for a free community music festival came when visiting Ithaca, which has been putting on a PorchFest every year since 2007 and has amassed in scope to 171 performers at 102 locations for their 2019 PorchFest, also scheduled for this Sunday.

“I thought, ‘you know we have a really nice neighborhood and maybe this is something that we would do here,’” Millar said.

First up on Millar’s front porch at 1 p.m. will be Ranjit Dighe, an economics professor at SUNY Oswego, who regularly plays Tuesday open mic nights at Old City Hall and has performed at PorchFest every year since its inception.

“It’s great having a free event like this where so many people can get involved and come out and be a part of it just by watching,” Dighe said in a Sunday interview with The Palladium-Times. “It’s a pretty amazing thing and all five years we’ve had good weather for it,” he said. This year, the forecast from weather.com project a high of 80 degrees by mid afternoon, with some overcast.

For his fifth year at PorchFest, Dighe will play an “eclectic” set of acoustic “indie rock-and-roll,” mixed with country and folk selections. Dighe said he draws inspiration from lesser-known album cuts by Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones, while also paying tribute to The Replacements and Big Star “that were basically never on the radio,” he said. 

“I think everybody’s tastes are what they were listening to in college, so for me that would be around ’79 to ’80,” Dighe said. “I started playing open mics because a lot of my favorite music never gets played on the radio or at bars, so I figured if I wanted other people to hear it, I’d have to play it myself.”

The free community music festival is made possible by homegrown sponsorship, with financial support from Pathfinder Bank, the Oswego Renaissance Association and DuFore Jewelers, this year offering four $100 gift certificates. A majority of performers are based in Oswego, Millar said, with a few coming from Syracuse and other areas in central New York.

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