With the 10th annual Front Porch Fest rapidly approaching, I sat down with the festival founders to reflect on the last 10 years. We discussed how the festival has grown over the past decade and highlights from each year.
Front Porch Fest (FPF) was created at the foot of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in Patrick County, Virginia. In 2008, it started as a gathering of friends and family; a going away celebration. Bands played on the porch of the house and friends sat together on blankets around a small fire pit enjoying the music. A seed was planted that night and in 2009, the first annual Front Porch Fest was established.
Front Porch Fest’s first home was on a private property bordering the Dan River in Danbury, NC. It started in 2009 as a Saturday-only event and 4 bands took the stage in its inaugural year. The cost of admission was extremely affordable – bring a few cans of food to donate to the local food bank. The festival featured local bands with a strong fan base and the attendance was excellent for a tiny festival off the beaten path.
In 2010, the festival was lengthened to two days and the humble posters boasted over a dozen bands. The small volunteer force stepped up its efforts and created amazing temporary infrastructure on the property. Along with a various landscape management projects, two stages were built, several thousand feet of bamboo fence were woven by hand, and a breathtaking VIP oasis was created on the edge of the Dan River. The work ethic that allowed FPF2 to be a success carries forward to this day. Even as a festival that is well established, FPF maintains its homegrown feel and the spirit of the original event. This is due to the dedicated volunteers who do the work as a labor of love, and many of whom attended that first party on the original porch.
FPF3 in 2011 featured one of the biggest changes in Front Porch Fest history – the move to the current festival location in Stuart, VA. With the growth seen in 2010, it had become obvious in the previous year that the small rectangle of land on the Dan River would not support this growing festival. When the opportunity to relocate to Spirithaven Farm was offered, festival producers jumped at the chance. This amazing property has an energy that can be felt from the moment you descend into the valley and it offers solitude but also proximity; the secluded farm is just a ten-minute drive from downtown Stuart, VA. Spirithaven offered a permanent stage and a covered pavilion, as well as established parking areas and numerous other amenities. Front Porch Fest staff helped in constructing a second stage and Spirithaven and Front Porch Fest began to grow together. Now, the infrastructure at Spirithaven supports numerous events throughout the year.
One of the most memorable changes for FPF4 was the addition of a beer tent, where festival patrons were able to purchase beer and wine by the cup. This addition was well received its first year and has continued to add value to the festival experience at Front Porch Fest. As the festival has grown, the beer tent idea has grown along with it. Over the years the site has seen an evolution of the idea and today the entire festival site is fenced as one large “beer tent” allowing patrons to enjoy their beverages throughout the festival grounds.
2013 was another milestone year for Front Porch Fest as the nonprofit parent organization, One Family Productions, was granted 501(c)3 status. From the small seed of “charging” admission with non-perishable food items in 2009 came a new organization with the mission of promoting and supporting community enrichment and growth by creating events that are accessible, innovative, and engaging. This non-profit status has enabled the festival organizers to benefit local charity organizations in an even greater way, and has led to One Family Productions partnering with other events to broaden the community impact.
This broadened community impact came into focus in a new way in 2014, when the 6th annual Front Porch Fest was able to donate funds to three local organizations. In addition to continuing its partnership with Patrick County Community Food Bank, sizeable donations were also made to Caring Hearts Free Clinic and the Patrick County Skate Park foundation. FPF has a lifelong partnership with the Food Bank and the Caring Hearts Free Clinic has continued to partner with One Family Productions for events throughout the year.
In 2015 FPF further solidified its regional impact by creating a formal partnership with Rooster Walk, a festival based in neighboring Henry County. One Family Productions began hosting the VIP area at Rooster Walk in 2015, and 2018 was the fourth year of that partnership. By creating this affiliation, both festivals are able to tap into the attendance base of the other, and ideas, projects, and resources are shared among each other.
In 2016 Front Porch Fest maintained its growth pattern, and also made strides in becoming a more environmentally conscious festival. For several years FPF had offered water stations to discourage the use of single use products, and had partnered with Klean Kanteen beginning in 2014 to bring stainless steel pints into the beer pouring areas. In 2016, disposable cups were not available at the pouring tables, and food vendors were no longer permitted to sell single use water bottles. The water station was improved tremendously and the Green Team continued its long tradition of separating recyclables, compostables, and true trash. These efforts to “green” FPF are refined and expanded each year as the festival grows.
FPF9 showed that One Family Productions was continuing to make its own place on the festival map. The producers and staff of the festival really honed in on what makes FPF what it is – the small, grassroots feeling, the family friendly environment, and the high quality of musicians. Front Porch Fest appeared in the Blue Ridge Outdoors “Festival Guide” for the fifth time, and the staff of FPF pursued other festival connections to promote their ideal of festivals supporting one another.
FPF10 will take place on Labor Day weekend 2018, August 30th to September 2nd, and is already shaping up to be the best year yet. The producers shared with me a few of the many surprises they have in store for the festival’s 10th year, which they are calling “Homecoming.” I will highlight that part of our chat in coming weeks, but in the meantime, check out the FPF website and Facebook page to learn more and stay up to date with Front Porch Fest!