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Superbly anti-suburb

Three neighbors bring the party to Owen Park’s porches

Tiny Porch Fest organizers Tommy Branch, Rusty Rowe, and Daniel McIntosh

Greg Bollinger

In an attempt to connect with their neighbors, Rusty Rowe, Tommy Branch, and Daniel McIntosh planned the first-ever Tiny Porch Festival, which was to be a late-May music fest in Owen Park.

What they didn’t expect was to catch the interest of more than 700 people on Facebook.

“Every time I try do something cool, there’s a balance of complete terror and excitement—like everything worth doing, right?” said Rowe, a musician, former owner of Mod’s Coffee and Crepes, and recent Oklahoma House District 66 candidate.

“We’re still going to give it our all,” said Branch, who is also a musician, as well as a board member for the Owen Park Neighborhood Association. While he, Rowe, and McIntosh believe Owen Park is the best neighborhood in Tulsa, they’ve noticed some of its areas are disconnected, indicating a problem they believe pervades our culture.

“It feels like we’re siloed, like we don’t interact,” said McIntosh, who works for 36 Degrees North and is the executive director of the nonprofit Parish Network.

“I was talking to Tommy about his [past] presidency of the Neighborhood Association,” McIntosh said. “His impulse in getting involved was to connect the whole of the neighborhood together, and he thought after two years we still hadn’t breached that gap. I said, ‘What do we need to do, then?’ He said, ‘Well, I’ve been in bands a long time. . .’”

They moved forward from there, inspired by NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts and a huge porch music festival in New Jersey. They chose a few Owen Park porches as venues and gathered seven bands to play throughout the afternoon and evening of Memorial Day, May 28.

But then the City of Tulsa noticed the event’s popularity on Facebook and told them they’d need permits, portable toilets, etc., for a festival so large.

The event was postponed so Rowe, Branch, and McIntosh could figure out a format that would adhere to city codes and regulations. Now, instead of the pub crawl layout they’d planned for initially, with folks moving from house to house (porch to porch) between sets, they’ll have bands play simultaneously on multiple porches throughout the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 22.

Three Owen Park porches will double as venues until 6 p.m., when the crowd will funnel to Pershing Studios (1903 W. Easton St.) for the final event. This way, the city won’t have to worry about the possibility of hundreds of people migrating together at once all afternoon.

“The city is looking at it more like it’s Halloween,” Rowe explained. Such vendors as Cirque Coffee Roasters, Willows Family Ales, and KillerWail Barbecue will keep festival-goers hydrated and satiated at Pershing for the final event.

Now more than 1,100 people have responded to the event on Facebook. The primary mission is still to connect neighbors—but it’s also about bringing people to Owen Park.

“We wanted to bond our neighborhood together—at this point we want to have a connection with the rest of the city, as well. A happy accident!” McIntosh said of the event’s still-growing exposure.

“Everyone has preconceived ideas about West Tulsa, North Tulsa, but if you go you’ll see they’re just people’s homes. It’s a neighborhood just like every other neighborhood,” Rowe said. “It’s a comfortable way to get out of your comfort zone. How many years have I been stuck in my house, gone straight to work, gone through the whole daily routine not realizing there are amazing people living feet away from me?”

The Tiny Porch Festival lineup features nine bands, including Grazzhopper Trio, The Lonelys, Endless Forms, Bringer, and more. These groups are passionate about neighborly connection, too.

Though historic Owen Park, like many parts of our city, suffers from some disconnection, its residents do seem to value knowing who’s next door. One family participating in the festival told Rusty they’ve met more neighbors in the year and a half they’ve lived in Owen Park than during the 25 years they resided in Broken Arrow.

“I think this area of downtown is really drawn to that,” McIntosh said. “We were actually going to name it the Anti-Suburbs Fest.”

Tiny Porch Festival
Saturday, Sept. 22 | Owen Park

Rosedale Porch (332 N. Rosedale Ave.)
3 p.m.:      Hot Toast Music (kid-friendly)
4 p.m.:     Endless Forms
5 p.m.:      Cedar House

Cameron Porch (1707 W. Cameron St.)
4 p.m.:      Rose Gold
5 p.m.:      Sam Westhoff​

Easton Porch (1721 W. Easton St.)
4 p.m.:      Zero for Conduct
5 p.m.:      Grazzhopper Trio

Pershing Porch (1903 W. Easton St.)
6 p.m.:      Bringer
7 p.m.:      The Lonelys

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