PorchFestKC will not return to the West Plaza next year; organizers seek new location

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In June 2014, Kansas City welcomed PorchFest — a concept that had been gaining traction across the country since its debut in Ithaca, New York, in 2007 — to the West Plaza neighborhood. The first year was a success and was — for the most part — received enthusiastically by the community. When the event took place again in June 2015, attendance nearly doubled. 

Today, PorchFestKC announced that it would not return to the West Plaza neighborhood in 2016. In September, the West Plaza Neighborhood Association’s board of directors voted to discontinue sponsorship of the event. Without the support of the neighborhood association, PorchFestKC’s organizer, Kathryn Golden, says she is unable to apply for assistance from the city to continue putting it on. 

“There were a lot of concerns from the Board about doing it another year at West Plaza,” Golden says. “The narrow streets and small lawns made it hard to hold the amount of traffic that we got. That wasn’t totally why they decided not to do it again, but it did grow so rapidly.”

“Porchfest outgrew the neighborhood’s ability to deal with it, I think that’s what I would say,” Joe Montanari, president of the West Plaza Neighborhood Association, says. “The first year, 2013, we were very lucky to have it at all, and it ws a joyful event. But we had over 3,500 people. The second year, there was more than 5,000 people, and the third year, there’s no telling how many people it would have been. It just exceeded the neighborhood’s ability to deal with it, just in terms of the burden it put on the very few volunteers we had.”

He goes on: “We just couldn’t [continue]. It isn’t that we didn’t want to. We never thought it was going to be exclusive to West Plaza, and we’re really glad we got a chance to have it. I will say this: Kathryn Golden, who managed the event, was an absolute delight to work with, and we didn’t have any friction or disagreement or unhappiness with anything. It’s just that we simply didn’t have the resources to continue to do it.”

Despite the board’s decision, Golden says, PorchFestKC will not disappear.

“The plan is to find a new neighborhood and move it to October, so that buys me some time to still apply for the neighborhood tourism grant,” she says. “I want to find a new neighborhood with a little more space, where streets are wider and more stretched out. I want something that fits the volume of people better than what we were doing. I don’t want to just go to a new place for the sake of having one — I want it to be right, because some of the crowding [at West Plaza] was challenging.” 

Golden adds that she is confident that she can find a new home for PorchFestKC by next October.

“I feel like there’s still time to do it,” she tells me. “I’ve just started talking about it, and I haven’t had too many conversations yet. I’m not aggressively going after anything right now, but I’m sort of reaching out to different neighborhoods.” 

It’s not just finding the right space for PorchFestKC, Golden says. A big part of it is finding a neighborhood association that will work around some of the unique aspects of this kind of event. 

“I’m very willing to talk about the good the bad and the ugly of it,” Golden says. “With the few people I’m talking to, I’m very up front about it — things are usually pretty clean, there’s not a lot of trash considering the volume [of people], which is what I’m always amazed and appreciative of. But it’s also supposed to be an alcohol-free event, and that works in 30 other cities. The first year, there were people sneaking alcohol, and this year it was blatant, and I know that that played a role in the decision this year [from the West Plaza Neighborhood Association]. For me, it’s frustrating that people can’t honor the intention with that. So, the alcohol thing was a concern, just from a compliance and liability standpoint, and there is concern whether the next neighborhood that looks at it will have a shared concern about that.”

Aside from the frustration of an errant drunkard peeing in someone’s front lawn — despite the dozens of porta potties she had rented, she adds — Golden says she’s optimistic that PorchFestKC has a future in Kansas City. 

“I’d love the opportunity to find a new place and resolve some of the crowding problem,” she says. “I’m just hopeful we can find a solution. It’s definitely a very popular event, and there’s enthusiasm for it, so I’m hopeful.” 

Golden adds that anyone interested in volunteering with PorchFestKC, or anyone interested in sponsoring the event, can e-mail her at porchfestkc@gmail.com

See also
PorchFestKC, with dozens of local acts, takes over West Plaza Saturday
PorchFestKC comes to West Plaza in June

Categories: News