The universal language of music brought together a diverse community of people who walked, talked, laughed and danced together this weekend in Portland’s Deering Center neighborhood.

The neighborhood hosted its sixth annual Porchfest celebration on Sunday, with residents throughout the neighborhood hosting a wide variety of musical acts on their front porches in a free, five-hour music festival. Nearly 50 singers, bands and instrumentalists representing a broad range of musical styles performed throughout the afternoon, drawing thousands of attendees.

The Portland band Port Gorges performs on Alba Street on Sunday during the sixth annual Porchfest in Portland’s Deering Center neighborhood. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Acts included Gina Alibrio and members of the Red Eye Flight Crew, whose eclectic set list included everything from the smooth rhythm and blues of Bill Withers to the crunchy classic rock of Led Zeppelin.

Alibrio said it was her first time participating in the Deering Center Porchfest, and that she was blown away by the experience.

“What a blast!” she said. “I was really psyched about the turnout.”

Porchfest originated in Ithaca, New York, in 2007 as a way to bring area musicians and neighborhoods together to celebrate and build a sense of community. It has since spread to neighborhoods in dozens of cities across the United States and Canada, according to Portland resident Amy Thompson, who was friends with the original founder in Ithaca and brought the Porchfest concept to Deering Center six years ago.

The event has grown every year since it first came to Portland in 2014. On Sunday, 48 musical acts performed at various times throughout the neighborhood, up from 39 acts in 2018. The event’s length also was increased to five hours from three hours in 2018.

In keeping with Porchfest’s guiding principles, the performances are always free of charge for attendees, and for-profit commerce at the events is strongly discouraged.

Deering Center homeowner Mary Allen Lindemann said Sunday was her fourth time hosting bands on her porch. Lindemann, co-owner of Portland’s Coffee By Design, said she moved into the neighborhood four years ago and immediately jumped at the chance to participate in Porchfest.

“I realize music is a way to connect people in really deep ways that aren’t political or anything,” she said.

Lindemann said she has been inspired by the diverse nature of Porchfest crowds, with people of all ages from many different cultures and backgrounds coming together to share and enjoy the same space.

“This is the best of what Maine does,” she said. “Invite people who may not look like you or sound like you into your home.”

One member of the boisterous crowd for Alibrio’s performance on Sunday was Reza Jalali of Falmouth, an immigrant from Iran who works as an educator and adviser at the University of Southern Maine.

Jalali said he is really impressed by the Deering Center neighborhood’s dedication to bringing the community together through its Porchfest events. Politicians may be trying to tear communities apart and pit neighbor against neighbor, he said, but events such as Porchfest transcend those divisions by encouraging people of all backgrounds to talk, dance and break bread together.

“As an immigrant, I always want to belong; I always want to be part of the community. I want to be visible,” he said. “To me, this (Porchfest) is true Portland, Maine. It’s a caring community.”

Cait Salzberg of Portland, who attended this year’s Porchfest with her husband, Sterling, said even more moving than the music was the sight of all the young children in the crowd running and playing together in the streets, which were closed off to vehicular traffic for the event.

“We love it,” Salzberg said. “I’ve been on the verge of tears all day.”

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