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Why friends, strangers will gather in Modesto front yards. Will rain stop the music?

Porchfest in Modesto

Over 30 porches in the LaLoma, College, and Downtown neighborhoods of Modesto hosted concerts on their front porch featuring local musicians on Sunday, May 20, 2018 in Modesto, CA.
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Over 30 porches in the LaLoma, College, and Downtown neighborhoods of Modesto hosted concerts on their front porch featuring local musicians on Sunday, May 20, 2018 in Modesto, CA.

With just two years under its belt, Modesto Porchfest has become a force for community unity and music. Don’t expect it to buckle to a little rain.

The third annual event that puts local bands on porch “stages” for a day of live entertainment is set for Sunday, May 19, from noon to 5 p.m. in the College, La Loma and downtown neighborhoods. This year, 55 homeowners have agreed to turn over their porches to nearly 80 bands, as well as their front yards to anyone who wants to pull up a chair, blanket or patch of grass to listen.

And even if they lose a few who’d rather not participate under wet weather forecast for Sunday, that’s still more bands and porches than ever.

“We’re thrilled” with the response the event has received, said Kate Trompetter, who is joined again this year by co-founders and co-organizers Ruhi Sheikh and Tricia Rosenow. “Every year, it’s gotten bigger. Every year, people have gotten more excited. We literally can’t do this without other people ... giving up their porches and sharing their time.”

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Sincerely, Allison performs on the porch at 719 W Fairmont ave during Porchfest in Modesto California on May 20, 2018. John Westberg jwestberg@modbee.com

While the community response has been great, Mother Nature has had a varied reaction. The first year in 2017, Porchfest was held in late July and the valley heat was so intense that the organizers decided to move the event to May. Last year, spring weather was a slice of heaven for Porchfest, with sunny skies and comfortable temperatures in the 70s. This year, it’s rain that threatens to douse spirits.

Still, Porchfest will go on, with bands deciding whether or not they want to risk their equipment getting wet and porch hosts choosing whether to keep their front yards open. As of midday Thursday, only two of the 80 bands that signed up had decided to opt out, Trompetter said. Many of the porch performance areas are sheltered.

“The bands have their equipment to think about; the chance of it getting wet/damaged is our (No.) 1 priority,” Trompetter said in an email. “We will update the map on our website all the way up until Sunday morning and encourage people to check there for the most up-to-date list of where they can find music.”

No matter what, an after-party planned for the bands, hosts and community still will go on at Raltson’s Goat in downtown, she said.

The three neighborhoods remain the same as in past years. “It’s about walk-ability; it’s about access,” Trompetter said. “Three years ago, we were just testing an idea and these neighborhoods just grabbed onto it.”

Louie Vargas is one of the hosts who grabbed on and has not let go. His house on the corner of College and Roseburg avenues not only has opened its porch, but its back yard, too, after the bands have played the past two years. Vargas said he has invited the bands, audiences, neighbors and anyone else who attends to join a pool party following the performances.

Vargas is an unabashed fan of Porchfest.

“I just love the camaraderie, everybody getting together,” he said, adding that it’s an event that brings the entire community together and gives people a chance to see old friends and meet new ones.

Like many hosts, Vargas sets up chairs, tables and umbrellas for his audiences — and even has provided refreshments.

As for the bands, they get exposure to and reaction back from the community.

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The porch at 926 Stanford featured bluegrass and a lemonade stand during Porchfest in Modesto California on May 20, 2018. John Westberg jwestberg@modbee.com

“I was talking to a musician that’s played every year who said it feels really communal, that they’re part of something that’s really cool,” Trompetter said.

It’s also a chance for the musicians to pick up some tips. Tip jars will be set up at every house, and Trompetter hopes the public will be generous to those who turn out to entertain them for free.

Organizers also want to make sure people who attend remain respectful to the homeowners and the neighborhoods by cleaning up after themselves and to not block traffic in the streets. While there haven’t been any issues the last two years, they want to make sure it stays that way.

“One of the messages we’re trying to be very clear about is if you value this event, you’ll keep the neighborhoods clean, keep the roads safe,” Trompetter said.

The event is for all ages and attendees can expect a variety of musical genres, she said, from reggae to a mariachi band, to signer-songwriters, folk, hard rock and even DJs.

For maps and lineups for this year’s Porchfest, see www.modestoporchfest.com.

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