Celebrating the CLE’s Third Annual Highlands Porchfest
By LIESEL SCHMIDT
Music is a language everyone understands. It is a form of expression and communication that needs no explanation or interpretation to strike a chord in someone’s soul. It can unite people from all walks of life.
Since its creation in the early aughts, Porchfest has been that great uniter of people in search of the harmonious feeling of music—using actual front porches as the music venues for bands, singers, dancing groups and instrumentalists of all genres to showcase their talents, first in Ithaca, New York, and then growing to communities in cities across the country. The festival’s popularity has continued over the past decade and a half, offering festivalgoers an opportunity to experience everything from rock and pop to classical, blues, jazz, Latino, R&B and folk music.
In 2021, the post-Covid world was aching for that feeling of union in new ways, and the Center for Life Enrichment (CLE) saw an opportunity to bring the Highlands community together with their own twist on Porchfest, using various designated venues around downtown Highlands rather than residential porches. “Attendees can walk or bike as they move from location to location, frequenting businesses as they enjoy live music,” says Fallon Hovis, CLE Executive Director. “The Highlands Porchfest was conceptualized as an event for all members of our community and visitors alike. The CLE aimed to make it a free-to-attend festival so everyone could participate, a festival that would bring people together through live music and celebrate the local businesses. With two successful events under our belts, our music festival is now revered for its inclusive community focus and its celebration of the talents of live musicians.”
There is, of course, a reason it has become such a celebrated event: the music. “Festivalgoers can expect top-notch local and regional performers from all genres as our music committee is committed to securing a diverse array of talented musicians to fill our schedule,” says Hovis. “Because musicians perform simultaneously around the town, every performer is considered a headliner. We are excited to announce that the joyful noise of Soul and Funk will be brought to Porchfest by Alabama native Lamont Landers, an overnight viral sensation and two-time performer on Steve Harvey’s ‘Showtime at the Apollo.’ Porchfest also welcomes back for the third year American Idol final contestant and R&B powerhouse Jerius Duncan. Also returning for his third year is Highlands local legend, Zorki, who will grace us with his incredible vocals and array of classic covers. Classical music enthusiasts will be blown away at the talent of New Orleans Jazz Pianist, Jack Adams, a musical prodigy at just 16 years old. Asheville area singer songwriter and ukulele extraordinaire Lindsay McCargar will sing you sweet tunes as you breathe in the mountain air. There are over 35 musicians on the schedule, each incredibly talented in their craft.”
That level of talent brings in a great number of attendees to the event, as does the price of admission. “More than 1,000 people attended the inaugural event, and we have seen growth in attendance and enthusiasm each year,” says Hovis.
Held in downtown Highlands at various hosting venues, Highlands Porchfest runs Sunday, September 17, 2023, from 1:00 pm. until 6:00 pm. The free admission is made possible through generous donations and sponsorships from the community. “A festival of this size has extensive expenses associated with its production, and fundraising is necessary so that this event can be free of charge for residents and visitors to enjoy,” Hovis explains. “It is important to CLE that our sponsors and community supporters know that their financial support through grants and sponsorships stays within our community. Should there be any proceeds after covering expenses, CLE is committed to investing future proceeds back into community enrichment programs as we have done for the past 30 years.
“As an event that is organized by the community, for the community, we can proudly say that it is the members of our community who truly benefit,” she continues. “The goal in making Highlands Porchfest a festival with free admission is driven by the need and importance that all members and workers of our community can have a festival to enjoy and participate in without financial barriers. Our local businesses and culinary menus are celebrated as hosting venues and benefit from boosts in revenue. Most importantly, the talent of our local and regional musicians is brought to the stage. CLE has watched musicians grow in their musical career as first-time performers at Highlands Porchfest to receiving several other performing opportunities at live music establishments on the plateau, and those stories keep us pushing forward with this event.”
For more information, visit highlandsporchfest.com.