Last year, the Harrison Center encouraged community members to participate in #SocialDistancePorching due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the nonprofit, which has been promoting porch parties since 2014, is urging residents to use porching to readjust to normal social life.
“Porching can be a step for some people to get back into community,” said Joanna Taft, executive director of the Harrison Center. “It’s a great way of connecting again and loving your neighbors and starting to rebuild physical interaction in the safety of the front porch with fresh air.”
In order to encourage more post-pandemic interactions, the Harrison Center is conducting porching 101 classes to teach people how to porch in an inviting way that promotes a deeper connection between neighbors. Attendees will be given tips on how to make guests feel comfortable, how to do your “hey, neighbor” wave and how to encourage conversations, such as by using family dishes that have been passed down or cooking unexpected appetizers.
The last two classes are noon to 12:45 p.m. June 3 and 5:15 to 6 p.m. June 4 at the City Gallery Porch at the Harrison Center. Tickets are $20 and include snacks and one drink at the lesson and a gift bag with a candle, a rack card explaining how to porch in 10 steps and a QR code to a porch party playlist.
Shirley Webster, who has been intentionally porching for about four years, said one of the lessons she hopes people learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is the importance of neighbors. Webster, 82, said it’s especially important for older community members to pass along lessons to younger neighbors, and porching provides an opportunity to connect and share those stories.
“The most that we have to offer as seniors is our history,” she said. “I think that’s really a part of how things work with humans, the younger learning from the older.”
Next week, Webster is planning to host a porch party with food, music, games and good conversation.
While Shirley has one, a front porch is not needed to participate in porching, Taft said. People can “porch” just by sitting in the area in front of their house, whether that includes a porch, front yard, driveway, balcony or stoop.
“It can be as simple as grabbing a chair and putting it on your front lawn and sitting there,” she said.
Taft, 57, said Indianapolis residents can also step up their porch parties by inviting neighbors over, munching on snacks or playing music.
By taking time away from TV and air conditioning to porch, community members can become more acquainted with their neighbors and create a neighborhood in which residents know and help each other, Taft said. Getting outside and developing a strong sense of community is especially important now because of the social isolation many people experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
Gina Fears, 61, said porch parties are important today because they are opportunities for neighbors to get together to share their COVID-19 pandemic experiences and recreate that feeling of togetherness that has been lost over the years.
Eugene Jones, 64, has been porching for about five years. He said participating in porching, and seeing others do so, reminds him of the community he grew up in, where there weren’t connected garages, TVs and other inventions to prevent chit-chatting.
The Harrison Center also partnered with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to create the 500 Spectacle of Homes, in which residents decorated their homes like the floats featured in the traditional AES 500 Festival Parade. Participants were able to register their homes for the chance to be a part of the “reverse parade,” which is replacing the traditional parade this year. In the “reverse parade,” the 33 Indy 500 starting drivers will drive through downtown Indianapolis and surrounding neighborhoods with the decorated homes May 29.
“Porching is once again the solution,” Taft said. “To have an Indy 500 driver drive down your street and celebrate with your neighbors is just a really fun thing we can do to celebrate Indianapolis as we come out of COVID.”
CORRECTION: The Manning family was misidentified in the photo caption in an earlier version of this article.
Contact staff writer Madison Smalstig at 317-924-5143. Follow her on Twitter @madi_smals.