Mark your calendars now for next year’s Cole Porter Festival.
If you are a fan of this Indiana native’s music. this is the place to be
every June around the time of his birthday on the ninth.
David Edelfelt and I had the distinct pleasure of being the Saturday evening entertainment for this delightful annual festival. Let me brag about the three standing ovations we received from this appreciative audience.
Music is not the only draw for this four-day deep dive into Peru and Cole Porter. The festival kicked off on Thursday with a progressive dinner party at three venues featuring recipes Porter served at his Waldorf Astoria residence in New York City.
Friday was filled with visits to the Thompson Art Gallery, a luncheon with Cole Porter music at the Miami County Gallery, Charles Troy’s multi-media presentation of his show “Cole Porter’s Top Ten List Songs” at Riverview Event Center, Jazz on the Square with saxophone player Don Smith under a festival tent, cocktails at the historic Roberts Home with music by Don Lowe, ending with a Roaring Twenties Party at the Miami County Artisan Gallery with Chicago’s entertaining musical couple, Matt and Cynthia Gruel.
The fun continued on Saturday, June 12 with another Charles Troy presentation, “Porter vs. Sondheim” at the Riverview Event Center, a Miami County Farmer’s Market, another invitation to the Thompson Art Gallery and my personal favorite, the Cole Porter Bus Tour. A small van took us to view several properties connected with Cole Porter’s family including Westleigh, the Cole Porter Inn and the Cole Family Gravesite.
Peru is also an old circus town with the tour guide pointing out how that influenced Cole’s early writing. The Old-Fashioned Garden was my favorite stop with the current owner donning a white gown with parasol and passing out lyrics to an early Porter song about her beloved garden.
More live music was presented in the afternoon at the Miami County Museum with Kati Roberts and Dr. Jason Gornto, Lisa van der Ploeg and Dr Pamela Haynes along with the aforementioned Matt and Cynthia Gruel.
Note that the Museum also features one of Cole Porter’s cars, a mint condition black 1955 Fleetwood Cadillac.
Another option was a songwriting workshop for beginners, as well as seasoned composers and lyricists led by yours truly, Elizabeth Doyle and David Edelfelt. Unbeknownst to us, two of Cole Porter’s relatives participated in this workshop.
Rediscover Downtown Peru sponsors a periodic Second Saturday where visitors and locals alike stroll down the main streets to enjoy children’s activities, live music along with restaurant and business specials. The Second Saturday fell on this Porter Festival weekend.
“DeLovely: An Evening of Cole Porter.” with David Edelfelt and me was presented in the Peru High School Auditorium, replete with a lovely grand piano plus professional sound and lights. Polly Dobbs, a Peru lawyer and a Cole Porter family member, presented two students with generous awards for higher education. Hailey Ewer, the 2021 recipient of the Cole Porter Memorial Scholarship, sang “Anything Goes” as a guest star in “DeLovely.”
As a brilliant idea, the Cole Porter Festival had a battle of the bands with current local groups such as Jazz Elements, Peter and Company, Sparrow 5, The Clown Townies and PatrOn. Each band had to include a Cole Porter tune which they would interpret in their own style. Judges were from Indiana’s Sweetwater Sound and the Great American Songbook in Carmel.
A bluegrass band won the top cash prize.
One of my best taste memories was a piece of fudge from So Good Candies of Peru. The candy store is a revival of a brand that began in 1900. According to lore, Cole Porter was so enamored of the chocolates that he would often send friends candy gifts from Peru’s downtown sweet shop.
Sunday afternoon kicked off with an Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Social with entertainment by a Dixieland band, Swampwater Stompers and a barbershop quartet, Kokomo Men of Note.
The weekend came to a close with an exclusive festival streaming event, “Love, Linda: The Life of Mrs. Cole Porter,” starring jazz vocalist Stevie Holland and directed by acclaimed lyricist and producer, Richard Maltby, Jr. The program was filmed, but there was a live Zoom Q&A after the showing with Holland.
Nothing precludes you from visiting Peru, Indiana in spring. summer or fall.
The Circus City Festival (July 17 to 24 this year), is another notable time in which to visit Peru, especially if you like circus acts and live circus music.
Those who love all things Cole Porter will surely want to experience this unique insight into the town where he was born and buried.
The Peru Best Western is clean and convenient. If you want a more soigné visit, you may consider the Cole Porter Inn in Peru or the Charley Creek Inn and Restaurant in neighboring Wabash, Indiana.
I met people from points east and west who come every year to this festival. If you are a Great American Songbook fan, Peru should be on your travel list for early summer, at least once!