It’s springtime — the birds are chirping, the wind chimes are chiming, and the residents of Somerville, Massachusetts are preparing their front yards for the city’s biggest event of the season.

This Saturday marks the 13th annual Porchfest, a decentralized music festival that progresses from west to east Somerville over the course of six hours. Participating properties offer their front lawns as make-shift stages for local music acts to perform for community members and visitors alike.

“The streets are packed, the sun is usually out and it’s beautiful, and it’s one of the first days of spring, so there’s like a euphoria happening,” says Jackson “Jack” Smith, a Somerville resident and seasoned Porchfest host. “There are going to be multiple houses on every street, sometimes every house on every street, is going to have a band playing, and you just kind of roam around, everyone is smiling, and the music is really good. I didn’t hear a bad band last year, so it’s a great time.”

In its first year, Porchfest boasted 50 local acts spanning all manner of genres and skill levels. Since then, the event has flowered into a region-wide phenomenon. A staggering 320 performances are expected to draw thousands of out-of-town attendees to the city this Saturday, but the Somervillians running the event are anything but intimidated.

“We try to make sure that people who stop by know that they can have a place to use the restroom. We’ll obviously have water,” Smith said. “I plan on having a bunch of people over, and so that just requires getting ready, but I think logistically, it’s pretty low effort if you live in the area.”

The name Porchfest is a tad misleading — most of the participating homes have no more than a front step to offer, but that’s enough to foster an environment of camaraderie and music-making that the entire city can enjoy.

When asked if there were any acts he was particularly excited about, Smith explained that the beauty of Porchfest lies in the unearthing of unknown talent in your neighborhood. “I think that you get excited when you hear something catch your ear from down the street and you have to think ‘Oh my God, we have to go there!’”

One of the other beauties of this event is its accessibility. If someone wants to perform, all they need to do is find a willing host and register on the Somerville Arts Council’s website. This sort of organic event planning entices professional acts by fostering an artistic autonomy rarely afforded by most formal venues. Simultaneously, it emboldens first-time performers with its low barrier to entry. Case in point — The Baldwin School Singers.

“It’s just about connecting people through music. Music has always been the connector in my life. It’s how I’ve met, you know, my friends, my family members, or who I consider family members now,” said Liz Hewitt, the kindergarten through second grade music teacher at The Baldwin School in Cambridge and a die-hard Porchfest fanatic.

This year marks her fourth year performing with The Craigie Street Crew, a band she helped assemble for the annual occasion, and her second year performing alongside her students.

“Last year, we had so many more people there because the children were there singing, so it definitely attracts more audience members,” she said.

The Baldwin School Singers’ participation not only benefits The Craigie Street Crew, it benefits the children said Hewitt. “They develop confidence, they develop listening skills, performing skills. Some of these students actually may have never performed live before, and so Porchfest is a very safe, welcoming environment to do that.”

The event is no easy feat to pull off. It takes a lot of work from a lot of people to create the conditions necessary for this sort of communal celebration, and in our daily lives, opportunities to gather and make music with our neighbors are few and far between. But to people like Hewitt, those opportunities are key to strengthening the bonds that hold us to each other.

“I have a masters in community music,” said Hewitt, “which is using music as a tool to bring people together, and cultivating joy through music regardless of any skills or talent that anyone may have. So helping each person find their way to experience the joy of music, whether that’s clapping, or holding an egg shaker, or doing a dance. It’s a way for people to connect, people who didn’t know each other.”

If you’re interested in attending Porchfest on Saturday, May 11, acts in West Somerville (west of Willow Avenue) perform from noon to 2:00 p.m., bands in central Somerville (Willow Avenue to Central Street) perform from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., and musicians in East Somerville (east of Central Street) perform from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. You can learn more about the lineup and see a map of performances at