There are many good stories about the founding and the operation of the Front Porch Stage. The goal of this page is to capture some of those stories and anecdotes from those who have been involved over the years.
Distinctive Live Music Venue: Front Porch Stage in Mount Ida: Click the link to read a wonderful article about the Front Porch Stage in “Travel Arkansas” by Zoie Clift on the Arkansas Tourism website. Zoie has been a travel writer for the department since 2006. She covers the Ouachitas and Timberlands and enjoys taking photos to go with her articles. Thank you, Zoie!
In 2012, both the Front Porch Stage and the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail were recognized at the annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference for Tourism. “Traildogs, Music Series Win Tourism Awards” is an article in The Arkansas Times that describes the event.
Founding and Early History of the Stage
(We sincerely thank Jerry Shields for his work in helping establish the original Front Porch Stage, and for providing the following Early History of the Organization.)
In 1999 Mike Adams approached the newly reorganized Mount Ida Chamber of Commerce Board, asking if the Chamber would support establishing a courthouse music program to bring people back to the square.
We agreed to support the idea, and Mike went about organizing the musicians to meet on the square every Saturday afternoon for some freelance picking. Later that year Mike became a member of the Chamber Board, and the Board agreed to help fund his activities as funds became available. We immediately began looking for two things: a sound system and a stage, neither of which we had any money available for.
The music program began to gather a little steam as the musicians began to come and pick and folks began to come and sit around the pickers and enjoy the music. As you may recall, in December of 2000 the world ended in Montgomery County when the ice storm of the century hit our area. It took several hundred repair crews almost six months to repair all our lines and remove the storm debris. Out-of-state crews from both Florida Power & Light and Carolina Power & Light were working in the area. (CP&L merged in 2000 with Florida Progress Corporation, now called “Progress Energy Inc.).
“Convoys of crews from all across the country descended on the area in the wake of the ice storm. Two new crews arrived Saturday 2nd, 167 from Carolina Power and Light, others from Florida, and 500 people were sent to the Mount Ida and Glenwood areas. The crews from Florida worked the Oden, our area, (FP&L) and did a fast job. The snow of about 4″ on 29th Dec. put them a little behind. They don’t drive in it very well.”
About six months after the crews left our area, we received a call from the Company telling us their crews had received such a warm welcome from the folks of Montgomery County that the company wanted give something back to the community. They said they couldn’t give us cash but could provide a gift, so we voted to request a sound system for the music program. A few weeks later, after we provided some specifications, they shipped us a $5000 sound system, and a music program was born.
Then, we began attacking the idea of finding a stage to have regular programs each week during the summer. We priced several flatbed trailers, but $5000 seemed to be the going price. After a year of looking, I noticed one for sale at the old racetrack on US 270 and stopped to inquire about the price. But, again, it was about $5000.
The guy selling it asked what we wanted it for, and after explaining what we were trying to do, he said there was an old stage out in the field behind the racetrack. He said the stage was built for a Kitty Wells concert at the track, as she would not come unless she had a stage. The stage was built from a base frame of a mobile home and included wells and a fold down stair. I approached the owner, a guy from Oklahoma, and made a deal to give a donation receipt from the Chamber for what he had in it, and he would donate it.
After getting permission from our County Judge, Ted Elder, we then had to find a way to get this 16 foot wide, 24 foot long behemoth from the track to the courthouse.
On Sunday morning at 6:00 am, the County Judge, Sheriff, Bill Ray, Philip Carr and I met at the racetrack to move the metal stage. Moving something this size actually requires a $300 permit, but the Sheriff and Judge agreed to escort us early before traffic. Phillip scrounged up some trailer tires that we mounted onto the trailer, then off to the courthouse we went.
For a couple of months we had programs on the open stage, but it was hot on the performers, so we put together a plan to build the Front Porch. Bill Ray and I drew up the design on a napkin over lunch at the Mt. Ida Café. Several program supporters took trees downed from the ice storm and had them milled into lumber that we used to frame the Front Porch. Bill Ray donated the metal roof, and the Forest Service donated the windows and doors. There was great enthusiasm for this project throughout the community, so when we needed something, someone would just step forward with whatever we needed.
A group of us, including Bill Ray, myself, Stu Schmidt, Bill Goodwin and several others I can’t recall, built the stage in about a week. A local wood worker designed and constructed the signs, and before we knew, we had a full blown program that was drawing several hundred people back to the square each weekend.
The Chamber then purchased a concession trailer to be used during the programs to help fund the musicians and defray their travel cost. They had been depending upon a collection by passing the hat during the program. This practice continued along with the concession creating a steady source of funds for the program. A few years later the musicians built a larger concession stand, and the Chamber sold their trailer.
After about a year, the musicians asked to go their separate way from the Chamber, and we all agreed they could handle it. Mike Adams ran the program for several years, developing programs like the Possum Queen, and scheduling groups from across the state to perform at the Front Porch. We have had concerts by the U.S. Marine Band, the U.S. Army Band, and other traveling groups looking for venues to bring their music to the people.
I have always been proud to have been a part of helping this program get started, but the credit goes to the musicians who wanted this program for the community.
The First Corporation