by Tenille Bonoguore
When I started the Grand Porch Party back in 2011 — having only moved to the area a
few months earlier — I had no idea what it would become. At the time, it was an
experiment, a way to meet my neighbours while building something unique.
I spent weeks knocking on strangers’ doors, asking to borrow their porches. I reached out to musicians and asked if they’d be willing to play for lunch kindly donated by the Princess Cafe. Surprisingly, people on both sides said yes.
When the first event dawned, we still didn’t know if anyone would come. But as I turned
the corner onto Menno Street, there they were: dozens of people milling about, curious,
open, enthusiastic. My heart soared, and soon, too, did the music.
Since that first “try it and see”, the GPP has become a staple of the summer arts scene.
We gained awesome local sponsors to pay our musicians. We inspired three more
events in Kitchener and Cambridge, so that Waterloo Region now has a porch party
from May through August. We won the Waterloo Region Arts Award for Best New
Festival in 2013. (Long-time GPP volunteer Anna Beard was kind enough to collect the
award for me — I was busy in the Grand River NICU with my five-day-old twins.)
Closer to home, the GPP ignited efforts to create the Uptown West Neighbourhood
Association, which is still going strong. It shared music and community with people of all
ages and all abilities. It also inspired anonymous artists to create their own one-day GPP
installations, which appear and then disappear just as quietly as the GPP itself.
Today, an amazing group of volunteers runs the Grand Porch Party, bringing fresh ideas
and new energy. It truly is the community’s event, and I could not be more proud nor
more thankful for the team’s efforts to keep the magic going.
The Grand Porch Party is more than an afternoon of art and community. It is everything
this City can be when communities are empowered to make something bold, together.
And that is why I am now running for Waterloo City Council. I want to bring the GPP’s
spirit of individual empowerment, shared space, environmental awareness and inclusive
access — the vibrant power of community — into Council Chambers.
So if you have great ideas for this City, or you just want to say hi, come find me at the
GPP. I’ll be the one with a wheelbarrow of watermelon and one mighty proud smile at
what this community — and this City — can do.