porch parties

Jimmie Luton, 102, and her daughter, Pearl, will celebrate Luton’s 103rd birthday on June 21 with a socially distant porch party. Luton will sit on her porch as passersby say “Happy birthday” to her. The Harrison Center found a creative way to continue the porch party initiative with Social Distance Porching. (Photo/Emily Schwank)

For the past several years, “porch party season” officially kicked off every May. However, this year, the initiative underwent rebranding.

Porch Party Indy was transformed into Social Distance Porching. 

Locals are encouraged to walk onto their front porches, lawns, balconies or front stoops every day at 5 p.m. to wave at one another.

“When we realized that our normal approach to porch parties would be unhealthy with COVID-19, we were afraid that we would have to cancel the initiative,” said Joanna Taft, executive director of the Harrison Center. “Then we realized how many people were feeling lonely and isolated. We knew then that porch parties were needed more than ever.”

The porch party movement, known as Porch Party Indy, was started by the Harrison Center in 2014. The initiative expanded to all of Indiana in 2016. 

Sitting on the porch and socializing with neighbors is becoming a fading tradition as porches slowly disappear from homes and people gravitate to backyards with privacy fences. Other forms of modernization, such as air conditioning and televisions, also have pulled locals inside their homes and further away from porches.

Porch parties are an organized way to socialize with neighbors and family.

“We were losing the porch tradition that was so active in our urban neighborhoods for so long,” Taft said.

Barbara Cash, a resident of Herron-Morton, noticed a surge in neighbors who are out and about during the pandemic.

“I think the social distancing has made porch parties better,” Cash said. “There were several routine families that you would see out on their porch at 5 p.m. prior to COVID-19, but now almost everybody is either out on their porches or out walking. I’ve seen the porching just expand, and I think that it will continue beyond COVID-19.”

Cash hopes that as more fences go up in backyards, it will push neighbors to their porches.

“I really hope we can maintain this community, openness, camaraderie up and down the block,” she said.

Michelle Bova and Joe Wiesinger reside just north of the downtown area. Since the couple moved to the area three years ago, they’ve always known porch parties to be a neighborhood tradition.

“I feel like before COVID-19, porch parties were very organized, and now it’s just very organic and regular,” Bova said. “I hope that even after this passes, it remains a routine.”

The value of social distance porching lies in interacting with neighbors Wiesinger said.

“When we’re sitting around our porches, we’re still able to have a conversation with them,” he said.

The Harrison Center plans to continue the social distancing approach until the porch parties can return to normal.

“I’ve already been thinking about when I go back to work, and how I’m going to get back at 5 p.m. in time for the porch parties,” Bova said with a laugh. “I’ve just become accustomed to it!”

Contact newsroom intern Mikaili Azziz at 317-924-5143. Follow her on Twitter @mikailiazziz.

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