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Oriental's First Ol' Front Porch Music Festival
Inspiration: Porches Then And Now
September 12, 2014

usic on a front porch. An unread email. A jog on Oriental’s main street. Those memories and happenstances — old and new — are part of the story of how the First Annual Ol’ Front Porch music Festival came to happen. It almost didn’t.

porch music fest
Banner this week across Broad Street — one of the main throroughfares for the Ol’ Front Porch Music Festival.

The festival, which takes place September 13 along Broad and Hodges Streets in Oriental, is the labor of love of a group of folk and bluegrass fans in town.

Dottie and Dick Osmun and others in the band, Harbor Sounds, have been wanting for years to put on a bluegrass festival in Oriental. They drew the inspiration from the musicians who used to gather on the porch of Billy and Lucille Truitt’s Ol’ Store at South Water and New Streets.

porch music fest
Some of the musicians and organizers who are part of the Ol’ Front Porch Music Festival got together at the Town Hall porch a few weeks ago. That is one of a dozen porches where music can be heard at the fest. There’ll also be a musical “petting zoo” there as well.

Billy and Lucille have passed away and the Ol’ Store building itself was torn down almost a decade ago. But those memories lingered – pick-up music sessions amid the piles of old nets and rocking chairs on the porch.

porch music fest
An Oriental History Museum sign marks where the Ol’ Store and its porch once stood, at South Water and New Streets. In background is Oriental Dental – the front porch there will be one of the stages for the Ol’ Front Porch Music Festival.

With that in mind, musician and Oriental United Methodist Church minister, Charles Moseley suggested a name — Ol’ Front Porch Music Festival. Plans were being made in the spring and summer to set up a festival that would use one or two churches in town as the venues. But by late July, it was becoming more complicated, and lives outside of bluegrass-festival planning had to be tended to as well.

Which is why, on July 28, Dottie Osmun sent an email to her neighbor, Leslie Kellenberger saying she thought it would be best to delay the festival until next year. 

Thing is, Leslie didn’t read the email before going out for a run. She jogged down North Street and on to the river and the harbor and it was when she was coming back up Broad Street that she ran by number 507. It was a home that the Price family had recently moved into.

“I ran by the house and noticed how wonderful the porch looked,” Leslie says.

porch music fest
The Price family’s front porch, the most recent porch to inspire the music fest.

That’s where the idea started taking shape for her.

“Right there at the Prices house, I think I stopped in my tracks, stared at it, looked around to see if there were other porches nearby. There were plenty!”

“I ran straight from there to Dottie’s front door and rang the doorbell. She wheeled to the door to let me in saying, ‘You got my e-mail this morning? We’re not going to be able to pull this off.‘”

But Leslie shared her idea: why not have the Ol’ Front Porch Music Fest on a bunch of porches in Oriental?

Dottie recalls it. “‘’Porches, yes porches! That’ll work!” And so began a hit-the-ground running effort to find residents and businesses willing to let their porches be used and local musicians willing to play. All of it for free.

porch music fest
Dawn Hoyle, Dottie Osmun, Leslie Kellenberger at a planning session for the Ol’ Front Porch Music Festival.

Word went out and there were soon a dozen porches in the mix — from Mariner Realty and Town Hall at the north end of Broad Street, down Broad to the Oriental bridge and down Hodges past the harbor to the Village Gallery and Marsha’s Cottage.

porch music fest
The music fest was pulled together with a lot of volunteer effort and not much money. To sort out what musicians would play where, the Osmuns taped brown paper to their dining room table and used Post-It notes to represent the porches. The Ol’Store site – where it all started — is represented, though no music is planned for that lot.

Musicians responded to the call, too. The lineup features the Del Rios, Harbor Sounds, Ed Terry, Bob Laverty, Mac Mcwilliams, the New Sensational Messenger – a gospel band out of New Bern, Travelin’ Jones, Oriental’s ukulele band, the UHOOs, Bob Jones and Friends, the Moseley Family, Salty Paws, Simon Spaulding, The Craven Brass.

porch music fest
The spacious front porch in front of the Village Gallery, on the harbor, is one of the stages.

One band has a particularly strong link to the Ol’ Store, The Green Creek Bluegrass Band, which dates back three decades. Among its members are Lucille and Billy Truitt’s sons-in-law, Ken Belangia and Ernest Dunn and along with other original members, Becky Ackiss and Jim Baluss, they will be playing on the Old Hotel porch from 2-3p.

porch music fest
Old Central Hotel porch where a model of the Ol’ Store will be on display, Sally Belangia will be telling stories of her parents’ shop, and the Greens Creek Bluegrass band will play.

The Old Hotel is also where Oriental’s History Museum will have a display about the Ol’ Store – including a model of the building and other memorabilia as well as some of Lucille Truitt’s paintings. Sally Belangia will be telling stories about her parents’ store from 1:30-2p.

porch music fest
An undated photo of the stove in the middle of the Ol’ Store, with Lucille Truitt (with back to camera) in the foreground. (Photo: Courtesy of Oriental’s History Museum)

Along with the performances, there’ll also be a “petting zoo” where children can see instruments up close, and a sing-along session as well as a jamming porch where musicians can drop in as in the days of the Ol’ Store.
While music is the main focus, the organizers also wanted local artisans to have a chance to show their works. More than a dozen of them will be set up at a Country Marketplace in front of the Pamlico News from noon to 4p.

porch music fest
A familiar sign from an earlier marketplace. (Photo: Courtesy of Oriental’s History Museum)

The Ol’ Front Porch Music Fesitval is being done on a shoestring – lots of volunteers and individuals chipping in — with a steady eye on making this year’s come off well and build on it for coming years. To raise funds, Jim Kellenberger will be manning his grill and selling lunches in the Baptist Church Parking Lot next to Town Hall. Proceeds will go toward putting together what’s hoped to be the 2nd Annual Ol’ Front Porch Music festival.

More on the Ol’ Front Porch Music Festival.

Click here to download the lineup for the First Annual Ol’ Front Porch Music Festival.

The porches/stages are on Broad and Hodges Streets. Click here to download the official, hand-drawn map. (A collector’s item someday.)

A number of shops and eateries in town are offering specials in connection with the Ol’ Front Porch Music Festival. To see the list of specials at Oriental’s shops and restaurants, click here.

Posted Friday September 12, 2014 by Melinda Penkava

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