Front Porch Sittin’: 2nd Annual Conference Discusses Southern Culture

Photo by Walter Lyle

The Mill at Plein Air in Taylor is holding the second annual “Conference on the Front Porch” Wednesday and Thursday of this week. The conference features nine speakers, a couple of musical acts at night, and tours around historic Oxford locations.

Every house in the Plein Ar community in Taylor has a prominent front porch. Photo by Walter Lyle

The official host of the conference is Campbell McCool, a Mississippi native and the developer of the Plein Air neighborhood, a front porch-centric community.

Only in its second year of existence, the Conference on the Front Porch had around 100 registered to attend, which is double last year’s turnout.

Attendees of the conference listen to the keynote speech by John T. Edge. Photo by Walter Lyle

The conference centers around the “front porch” of the South – not necessarily the physical porch itself, but the culture surrounding it. Speakers will discuss their own personal experiences with front porches in the South, what the front porch means for them and their families, and how the community it creates continues to shape southern culture today.

“The front porch is central to our whole identity,” said McCool. “It’s not just lumber; it’s who we are.”

McCool started studying the front porch about five years ago and said he just became fascinated with it.

Host Campbell McCool opens up the conference. Photo by Walter Lyle

“It just kind of taps a nerve,” said McCool. “In this age of Twitter and social media, we need more front porch, more time to just sit, be quiet, and talk. People are longing for what the front porch was. That’s why front porches are making such a resurgence.”

The keynote address was given by author John T. Edge of the Southern Foodways Symposium. While Edge mostly writes about food in the South, he also has quite the affinity for front porches. In his speech, he highlighted five notable porches in the South and ended it with his own. He’s always lived in the South but made the move here a few years ago.

John T. Edge delivers his keynote address. Photo by Walter Lyle

“It wasn’t until I moved to Oxford when I realized how important the front porch is,” Edge said in his speech. He said he takes great pride in the fact that his home now has three porches, to make up for his lack of a porch growing up. He talked about how he and his wife walk to the Square from their house, just to come back and sit on the porch together.

“I don’t go to the internet. I read books.” -John T. Edge. Photo by Walter Lyle

When asked where he goes on the internet to find new southern recipes, Edge simply replied: “I don’t go to the internet. I read books.”

The conference is a two-day affair, and attendees are treated to several speakers and tours around notable places in Oxford. Activities include but are not limited to a tour of the Blues Collection at the Center for Southern Studies, a tour of Faulkner’s Rowan Oak, a play set on a front porch and a front-porch musical performance.

A full list of speakers and activities can be found on their website.

John T. Edge at the Conference on the Front Porch

Video by Walter Lyle

Photo by Walter Lyle
Photo by Walter Lyle
Photo by Walter Lyle
Photo by Walter Lyle
Photo by Walter Lyle
Photo by Walter Lyle
Photo by Walter Lyle

Walter Lyle is the Social Media Editor for HottyToddy. He can be reached at walter.lyle@hottytoddy.com.

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