Annual Cranford event draws large crowds and sees huge success

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CRANFORD, NJ — Although the novel coronavirus pandemic has disrupted many aspects of people’s lives, it didn’t stop the Cranford Community Connection from hosting its annual Cranford Porchfest on Saturday, Oct. 10. Even with face coverings and social distancing, the afternoon event, which comprised 30 bands playing on 10 different porches, was a thrill for Cranford residents. A 5:30 p.m. double finale closed out the festival, with the band BINGE playing near the Gazebo in the parking lot next to the Cranford Firehouse and the band KGB performing at Sherman Park.

Cranford Community Connection and Porchfest organizers Randy Geis and Chrissa Stulpin, who were at the BINGE performance near the Gazebo, explained how they had made the event happen.

“Today is a one-day music fest,” said Geis. “Each band plays for about an hour, and it’s about community, people coming out together and enjoying the friendship of neighbors, family and having a great time. More than ever, I think it’s needed at this time for people to come out and feel a sense of normalcy as we go through this pandemic. If you look around, you’ll see everyone’s wearing masks and respecting each other’s personal space and social distancing. This is a great event that’s brought to you by the Cranford Community Connection, here in Cranford.”

“So we had 10 houses that hosted, and, at each house, we had three bands playing,” said Stulpin. “We had about 30 bands play all day today, and then we have two bands playing at our finales. We had over 30 local bands today, and it was a great showing for all of them.”

Cranford Porchfest has grown in size and scope each year.

“This is the fourth year Cranford Porchfest has been going on,” said Geis. “It all started when we formed this Cranford Community Connection. We came together and we said to ourselves that we needed to find some great ideas to bring the community together, get people out and do some fun things in our wonderful town of Cranford. I brought the idea back to my wife, and she said, ‘I have this great idea for you; it’s called Porchfest.’ There’s a spot in Jersey that does it. It started off in Ithaca, New York, many years ago, and it’s grown exponentially, as it has here in Cranford.

“We tried to keep the porches down to 10, but the crowds are definitely getting bigger and bigger.”

Geis said there was a large turnout this year.

“We’re in our fourth year now, and I just went by Central, the Kennedys’ house, and there’s definitely over 100 people there, all wearing masks and social distancing, which is awesome. I appreciate everyone who did that,” he said.

“This is my first year being part of the committee,” said Stulpin. “The first three years, I was a spectator, and I would say this year had to be my favorite, because I was actually able to be part of it and be part of the planning, helping out, and we were livestreaming from all of the porches and bringing people who couldn’t come out into the event through Virtual Cranford and showing them the live videos and livestreams of the bands. It was great to bring the community together in this really difficult time.”

“I have to be honest, I don’t have a favorite year,” said Geis. “Every year has been consistently the same. The bands and the participants; everyone has just been amazing. The first year was exciting, bringing it to the community for the first time. All the nervousness quickly left when we saw the crowds gather and just have a great time. So every year has been amazing.

“I feel very confident that people have been out enjoying themselves. People have been out social distancing and wearing their masks like we asked them to and I can tell they’re smiling by their eyes. You can see it. It looks like everyone is having a great time, and I’m just so happy to bring some normalcy back to the community. I know we’ve had to cancel a lot of our other events that we do with the Cranford Community Connection, so it’s been great that we’ve been able to do this, and we’re happy to have our local politicians on board, as far as supporting us and letting us gather like this, which was great.”

“I think this event was great,” said Stulpin during the finale, echoing Geis’ sentiments. “Especially coming off of so many things being canceled. We weren’t sure if we were actually going to be able to do it this year, and we got great support from the Township Committee and from the town. We live in such a great community. Everyone was compliant with all of the guidelines, social distancing, mask-wearing and we really had a successful event today. We saw a lot of kids dancing in the street and residents dancing and singing under their masks and having a great time, despite the crazy times we’re living in right now. This was really successful, and we can see everyone coming out here for the finale.”

“I really love the community feel,” said Geis. “Seeing all the kids coming out and riding their bicycles around and just having a good time, parents relaxing with neighbors, socializing and making that connection again with neighbors and friends, which is really important during this time.”

At Sherman Park, Cranford Community Connection and Porchfest organizers Nikki Savino Mulcahy, Marita Dow and Jackie Carr, chairperson of Cranford Community Connection, enjoyed the KGB finale.

“We have one band here and one at the Gazebo,” said Dow, “because we wanted to do the 6-feet-separation social distancing. We wanted people to enjoy the day, so, this way, we were able to split it up so that we can have more people go listen to the different bands. We’re almost at the end of the night, so we’re getting there.”

“I think it went well,” said Savino Mulcahy. “I think we had a nice mix of different acts. The house where I was, they had soloists and I know other bands, there were some DJs, and we had a good mix. There was a little bit of something for everyone. You were able to go from house to house. It was walkable, so it did promote activity. Cranford is a good walkable town, so I think that that was a really great way to include a family day. The weather was fantastic. It was just overall a great event.”

“The house I was at, we had a variety,” said Dow. “We had a group that goes and takes music classes in Westfield. They had three different bands of high school kids singing, everything from rock to punk, and then we had a soloist. Then we had another band that was doing country music. They were doing more of the singalong things. It was nice, and it was fun. People were riding their bicycles over and stopping in. We’ve got a few people that had their table with chairs and had their little appetizers, and videotaping. It was nice to see all of the talent that is in this town; otherwise, you would never know about it.”

“The event was phenomenal,” said Carr. “It was extremely successful. This is our fourth year doing this. Randy, one of our commission members, put it together, and each year the crowds get better. This year was a little different because of COVID, but everyone adhered to wearing masks and social distancing, and everyone came out and had a great day with great weather.”

Photos by EmilyAnn Jackman