Music drifted through Superior’s Central Park neighborhood June 17 from two porches and a driveway just blocks apart. More than 100 people set up folding chairs and blankets to enjoy the open-air concerts.
Charlie Anderson, 11, of Duluth, blew bubbles as he listened to tunes by Similar Dogs, the duo of Sarah Jane Hale and Joe Lindzius. His parents, Toni and David, said they crossed the bridge to catch the group’s performance. It was nice to be out of the house, they said, and the weather was perfect.
Bonnie Nolan, of Superior, learned of the popup music event on Facebook and was invited to set up her chair on Craig McGrath’s lawn.
“This is so much fun,” she said.
About a dozen people — including McGrath’s family and friends — settled in to listen to Adam Herman of The Slamming Doors offer up a string of folk rock tunes and share the sunny afternoon.
“I just like the community getting together, maybe meeting some new people around the local area," McGrath said.
Porchfest is an offshoot of the nonprofit Siggy’s Musical Garden Incorporated, which was inspired by Sigrid “Siggy” Johnson of Superior. Her granddaughter, Cheryl Finkbeiner, and Hale were among the organization’s founders and are current board members. Its mission is to spread joy in the Twin Ports community through art and music.
As she watched the first Porchfest unfold, Finkbeiner said it warmed her heart.
“I could picture my Grandma, with her visor on, in her lawn chair enjoying the music right alongside everyone else," she said. "She would definitely have loved this endeavor we created in her honor.”
Similar Dogs performed for Siggy on her 93rd birthday and continued to bring concerts to her until she died at age 97. Performing at the first Porchfest, Hale said, was one of the most unforgettable gigs they have ever played.
“It reminded us of being with Siggy celebrating her birthdays or being at her bedside in her last days. It was simply love, in every way,” Hale said. “Music was the embracing backdrop to let the community of Superior show its heart on a warm summer’s eve.”
Robert Mertz, 80, didn’t even know the concerts were happening until he saw Herman performing on a porch two doors down from his home. He strolled a block away to catch some popular tunes from Similar Dogs and ran into many friendly faces.
It was an afternoon filled with people and puppies, said Mike McCarty, who lives in the neighborhood, as he watched Jake Searl of The Curellis perform.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Mary Drobot, one of the homeowners who offered their porch for the two-hour popup concert.
The musicians said they enjoyed the Superior serenade.
"I love the idea of bringing a community-centered event right to the community's front door, literally," Herman said.
Superior Porchfest Popups were set to kick off in 2020, but were put on hold due to the pandemic.
However, the pandemic didn’t stop the group from bringing music to the community. They coordinated a number of Superior Porchfest Serenade sessions at senior living facilities in the fall of 2020. They were such a hit that Twin Ports Health Services is welcoming the traveling musicians back for an encore this year, said Tina Anderson, life enrichment director.
It took a lot of "yeses" by a lot of people to coordinate the popup concert series, patterned after one Finkbeiner and her husband, Paul, went to in Florida while visiting their son.
"And we got a lot of 'nos' before we got a lot of 'yeses,'" she said.
Finkbeiner used handwritten letters and board member connections to find homeowners willing to donate their porch for a few hours; volunteers to set up and tear down the ephemeral concerts; and musicians to share their music.
Individuals and businesses have stepped up to sponsor porches. The funds go toward expenses such as sound equipment, signs, providing a portable toilet on site and paying the musicians a stipend, which many donate back to the organization. Any additional funds raised will go toward other outreach efforts, including the senior serenades and providing instruments for young musicians.
The series features 20 musical acts on 18 porches during six Thursday evenings, each one in a different Superior neighborhood. Visit the Superior Porchfest Popup website or Facebook page for more information.
If you go
Superior Porchfest popups will take place from 6-8 p.m. on the following nights:
- July 1: Shane Nelson, Eric Cyr and the Cosmonauts and James Wiita and Eric Lester will perform in Superior's North End neighborhood.
- July 22: Son of Mel, Maintenance Free and Theresa Williams will perform in the South Superior neighborhood.
- July 29: Andy Hausworth, Tom O'Hara and Stel will perform in the central Superior area.
- Aug. 5: Ty Johnson, Boss Mama and the Knudsons with Gina Lee will perform in the Billings Park neighborhood.
- Aug. 19: The Noteables, Hodag and Hooch and Born Too Late will perform in the city's East End neighborhood.
Music enthusiasts can catch additional free outdoor concerts through Superior's Bayside Sounds series. Like Porchfest, the concerts move around from site to site throughout the summer; unlike Porchfest, each features just one musical act. The series kicks off July 7 at Webster Dream Park and takes place from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesdays through Sept. 8.
- July 7: South of Superior at Webster Dream Park
- July 14: Crescent Moon at Bear Creek Park
- July 21: The Fractals at Fairlawn Mansion
- July 28: Mackie Brothers at Billings Park
- Aug. 4: John and Andy at Hammond Park
- Aug. 11: Woodblind at Kelly Park
- Aug. 18: Last Call at Central Park
- Aug. 25: Whiskey Trail at Barker's Island
- Sept. 8: G. B. Leighton at University of Wisconsin-Superior, 5-7 p.m.
A free outdoor concert featuring Harmony-N-Strings will take place at 1 p.m. Thursday, July 1 at the Lew Martin Senior Center, 1527 Tower Ave. Bring a chair and beverage.