In second year, Shelburne Falls Porch Festival launches community’s return after pandemic

  • Sheryl Stanton, Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont Regional school districts superintendent, performs with Bobby D at the Shelburne Falls Porch Festival on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Paul Bennett, the event’s organizer, lets audience member Bella Fand tell a joke during his stand-up comedy session at the Shelburne Falls Porch Festival on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • The view of the Bridge Street Bazaar's new community patio from the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Audience members at Paul Bennett’s stand-up comedy show at the Shelburne Falls Porch Festival on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Sheryl Stanton and Bobby D performed Americana and original music on the Bridge Street Bazaar’s porch during the Shelburne Falls Porch Festival on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 7/11/2021 8:31:34 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — The sounds of music, poetry and stand-up comedy filled the air of Shelburne Falls Saturday afternoon.

The village, which includes the towns of Shelburne and Buckland, hosted its second annual Porch Festival. The event, which was organized last year by now 14-year-old Dorothy Strano-Bennett and her father, drew enough interest that they wanted to do it again.

“I love walking on the street hearing everyone talk about it — I don’t look 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 who organized it, so I did it even though I’m unqualified,” Bennett said. “It all worked out.”

Bennett hosted a stand-up comedy show on his porch where he told jokes with topics ranging from the pandemic — “Did everyone have a good pandemic?” he joked — to his time as a divorced father in New York City.

Susie Berger, who relocated to Shelburne during the pandemic, said the Porch Festival is a “great mixture” of different kinds of art.

“To hear stand-up comedy, that’s not something you see in a small village,” Berger said after Bennett’s show. “I moved to Shelburne from New York City and feel like I’m getting much more culture here.”

Bennett’s comedy routine was just one of many performances scheduled for the day. Mohammad Yaseen, co-owner of the Bridge Street Bazaar, said he used the Porch Festival to unveil the business’ new community patio as a place where people can eat lunch and relax while spending time in Shelburne Falls.

“We opened it up for Porch Festival,” Yaseen said. “We’re always trying to bring people. … We want them to spend the day and spend their money locally.”

He added that “sharing is caring” when it comes to 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 anybody come, have lunch and listen to music.”

The Bridge Street Bazaar is also looking for picnic table donations to further fill out the space as it evolves.

Sheryl Stanton, the Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont Regional school districts’ superintendent, performed Americana and other original music at the Bridge Street Bazaar. She said she doesn’t get to perform much because of her job responsibilities but she was glad to take part.

“I just love the atmosphere,” Stanton said. “It was awesome, but with the view of the river it was hard to focus. … It was a real treat to get out here and play.”

The people sitting on the patio weren’t the only ones enjoying the music as spectators could be seen listening to the performance on the Bridge of Flowers as well.

Stanton said the event is great for Shelburne Falls and she hopes to see it happen again in the future.

“I’d really love to see it take off,” Stanton said. “We get to enjoy what is really special about our community.”

Buckland Selectboard Chair Dena Willmore, who was watching Stanton perform, said she stumbled upon 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 it becomes a tradition.”

She said the event “has a lot of potential” and she thought it was a great way to begin the community’s return as the pandemic fades into the background.

“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 Bridge Street Bazaar’s porch as a way to close out the evening.

Starr, who spent part of her childhood in Shelburne Falls, said the patio is an “amazing performing arts space” and she was happy to help “break it in.”

“No one else has this view,” Starr said as she looked toward the Bridge of Flowers. “To do live music here is so special.”

Like Willmore, Starr said the Porch Festival was great in “getting people out” and it can help the town come back from the pandemic.

“Let live music come back to Shelburne Falls,” Starr said. “It’s like a rebirth.”

When asked about positive feedback and if that means he’ll have to keep organizing the event, Paul Bennett laughed and said the idea is daunting but he wants to keep the Porch Festival coming back because it can bring the community together.

“It’s great and scary. … We need to start earlier (next year),” Bennett said. “I think art is a great way to connect.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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