Grateful teen organizes porch music fest in Shelburne Falls 

  • Dorothy Strano-Bennett, 13, organized the Shelburne Falls Porch Music Fest, which was held throughout the village on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

  • The musical group, Yesterday’s Rain, plays traditional Irish music from a porch on State Street.  STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

  • Lynn Benander of Shelburne Falls, Dorothy Strano-Bennett and Paul Bennett helped organize Saturday’s porch music festival in Shelburne Falls.  STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

  • The group Yesterday’s Rain performs traditional Irish and Celtic music for an outdoor audience at Saturday’s porch music fest in Shelburne Falls.  STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer
Published: 8/3/2020 5:27:56 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — Before heading home later this month, a 13-year-old New Yorker wanted to give back to the community that took her in during the worst of the pandemic.

“It’s just such a great community that has made me feel so welcome,” said Queens resident Dorothy Strano-Bennett.

On Saturday, Strano-Bennett hosted the Shelburne Falls Porch Music Festival, offering residents and tourists a chance to enjoy a bit of outdoor live music on a hot summer day.

“So many people love live music but don’t have a chance to see it right now,” she said. “This was a way people could socially distance and stay safe, but still participate in music together.”

All participants involved were reminded to wear facial coverings and practice social distancing.

Leaving behind a small apartment in Queens, Strano-Bennett and her younger sister left for Massachusetts in March, as the pandemic began to take over. They joined her father and stepmother, who were living with her stepmother’s mother, Lynn Benander, in Shelburne Falls.

With the exception of a trip home in May to visit her mother and stepfather who had just recovered from COVID-19, Strano-Bennett has lived at her grandmother’s home since she arrived in March.

In June, shortly after arriving back in the area again, Strano-Bennett began planning for the porch music festival — an idea given to her by her grandmother, but that she brought to life.

“I thought, this could be a really fun and a really good experience for the community,” Strano-Bennett said.

Strano-Bennett said she worked with the town and reached out to performers Benander knew. She set up a Google form inviting people to sign up for time slots and a location they could perform at (ideally a porch).

“Everyone was helping me out a lot, but I didn’t fully understand at first I was going to be the primary person,” Strano-Bennett said. “Then it was like, oh, I can do this.”

Between 1 and 5 p.m. on Saturday, musical performances and comedy shows were scheduled at about six locations throughout the village. Some people stopped for a moment to enjoy the live entertainment while others set up picnics on the grass and enjoyed full performances.

One of the entertainers on Saturday was Strano-Bennett’s father, Paul Bennet, a part-time comedian.

“I haven’t done live comedy in months,” he said. “I’ve done Zoom, but nothing with humans in front of me. It was wonderful.”

He said he was proud of his daughter for the work she put in to making the event possible.

“Sometimes you just need someone to have a spark, or want to make something happen, and other people rally around,” he said. “I’m really happy she had that spark.”

Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-772-0261, ext. 263. Twitter: @MaryEByrne

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