VENTNOR - Music filled the soft breezes that blew through Ventnor neighborhoods Sunday, June 11 creating new friendships among neighbors and welcoming visitors to the Jersey shore. The first-ever Porchfest was held on main thoroughfares and side streets, back porches and bayfront decks, sharing art and music with passers-by and anyone looking for a shady spot.
"We have been waiting for this for weeks," Edgewater Avenue resident Jerry Lipski said. "The singer is my next door neighbor, but we met other neighbors who just moved in for the first time."
Lipski put out a spread of cheeses, pretzels and spiced shrimp, offering refreshments to visitors - some he knew, others he didn't.
"It's a great way to socialize and it's a good excuse for a party," he said.
More than 60 musicians shared their talents and more than two dozen artists displayed their artwork on 40 porches located throughout town. Some were left a little disappointed when an accident on the Atlantic City Expressway delayed some out-of-town musical acts from getting to their porch on time. Nevertheless, those porch parties persisted.
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Lynn Higbee of Egg Harbor Township attended with a friend. They had visited only a few porches by around 2 p.m. where they listened to music and viewed some artwork before sitting down under a shade tree to listen to the jazzy sounds of the Bob Sterling Band.
"This is a real cute idea, and it's a nice day for it," she said.
The event was organized by Amazing Ventnor's Michael Einwechter, who is co-owner of Ventnor Coffee on Dorset Avenue, where many of young musicians break into the business. Porchfest was a great day to get even more exposure, so the musicians, including members of the South Jersey Jazz Society played for free.
“We were visiting Ithaca, New York, a couple of years ago when they were having their Porchfest. The idea was to bring neighbors together, and I though it would be great to do it in Ventnor,” said Einwechter, who founded the nonprofit to promote businesses and tourism in his hometown.
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Porchfest is one of several new events Amazing Ventnor is offering this summer, including concerts on the beach Sunday nights, sunset celebrations at Ski Beach, and neighborhood block parties - the next is Wednesday, June 14 in the North Beach commercial district.
Many agreed it was a great way to bring the community together. Residents and visitors walked or rode bikes to the porch venues, which featured mostly soft rock and light jazz. Some homeowners offered light refreshments, others went all out with hot and cold sandwiches, salads, beer, wine and sodas. Bottled water was a staple of the day, which offered cloudless, sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-80s.
Two unusual offerings were grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and a "walking taco," made with taco fixings inside a bag of chips.
"This is our third stop so far," Lisa McLaughlin of Margate said. "It's fantastic. Ventnor is doing more things to attract visitors and entertain the residents. Everyone loves music and the beach. Put the two together and you have something great."