Who We Are
A FAMILY-BUILT, INDEPENDENT AND COMMUNITY-FOCUSED PRODUCTION COMPANY
Sam Porter is an entrepreneur with a love for community, the arts, social engagement, and environmental stewardship. With boundless energy, Sam has dedicated himself to over 15 years of leadership and expertise in festival and event production, venue and staff management, artist and agency relationship development, and marketing and business management.
Born and raised in Traverse City, Sam moved to Bozeman, Montana, where he attended Montana State University and spent 12 years building one of Montana’s largest independent entertainment and events production companies, Porterhouse Productions, which produced many annual festivals and events, some of which continue today. He also founded Obvious Advertising, a leading indoor advertising medium. Together, Sam and Abby founded the non-profit BORN (Bioregional OutReach Network) which produced the annual Northern Rockies Bioneers Conference, a hub of practical solutions for restoring the Earth and people. Sam traveled to India, Cuba and Latin America where he studied folkloric music through percussion as well as ecology and social work. He’s a graduate of Rockwood Leadership Institute and he acted as President of the Bozeman Youth Initiative.
In 2008 Sam and his family moved back to Traverse City. Since their return, Sam, his wife, and the Porterhouse Productions team have produced numerous festivals and events in the region, selling over 40,000 tickets to such events as the annual summer and winter Traverse City Microbrew & Music Festival; Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula’s Paella in the Park which features local chefs, wineries, and, in 2010, music by GRAMMY Award winner Blues Traveler; National Writers Series’ An Evening with Mario Batali, a seated dinner for 2,000 attendees; a multitude of concerts at the City Opera House and other venues; Charlevoix’s Up North Fourth summer event; and much more. They have created and produced a variety of concerts, arts festivals, youth and cultural events, non-profit fundraisers, film festivals, major corporate events, university and public school events, and other signature events, and support the network of creative arts and local business in the northern Michigan region.
Porterhouse Productions is a family-built, independent and community-focused production company that celebrates the music, arts, ideas and community of northern Michigan. Porterhouse Productions has a pool of over 1,000 committed volunteers, 36,000 email members, 6,000 Facebook fans, and a dedicated community that supports their work.
Sam lives in Traverse City’s central neighborhood and Old Town community with his wife, their two beautiful girls, and Roy, his old yellow lab and constant companion.
2009, 2010, 2011 – TC Business News’ 40Under40: The 40 most influential people in our region under the age of 40.
2009-2011 – Featured in Traverse City’s Traverse Magazine, Northern Express, Traverse City Record Eagle
2006 – The Tributary – Bozeman, Montana: Bozeman Heroes: Locals Creating Positive Change, Visionaries Helping to Make Bozeman, Montana, a Vibrant, Growing, and Sustainable Place to Live.
With a penchant for design and creative writing, Abby Walton Porter lends an innovative and focused eye to graphic design projects and the written word. Abby graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a BA in Creative Writing and attended Miami Ad School in San Francisco where she focused on copywriting, graphic design, and art direction. She dedicates her time to the custom creation of posters and advertisements, identity packages, brochures and programs, wedding and event invitations, baby and graduation announcements, and personal and business stamps.
Abby is a proud Traverse City local. She was born and raised here. Her roots in northern Michigan extend back to 1947 when Abby’s maternal grandmother and grandfather, Jean and Gordon Cornwell, moved to Traverse City from the East Coast, and when her paternal grandmother and grandfather, Helen and Lewy Walton, moved to Traverse City from Niles, Michigan, in 1952.
When the Cornwells settled in Traverse City, Gordon began working with the Parsons Corporation and one year later, he opened his own architectural practice in the Anderson Building on Front Street in Traverse City, which practice continues as Cornwell Architects through Abby’s uncle, Bob. Jean & Gordon were very involved in and indebted to the Traverse City community. They were quietly active as leaders in enhancing and preserving it for future generations. Gordon was a charter member of the Traverse Area Development Fund, now known as the Traverse Area Community Foundation, which was created to fund the development of the Open Space and the Easling Community Pool. He was a founding director of Northwestern Bank in 1955. Gordon was a founding member of both the Grand Traverse Yacht Club and the Grand Traverse Ski Club, assisting in the development of Hickory and Holiday Hills. Gordon served 35 years on the Traverse City Planning Commission and was instrumental in drafting Traverse City’s original zoning ordinance. He was a longtime board member and past president of Child and Family Services Of Northwest Michigan. He served as board member of the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce and as chairman of its downtown development committee. He was a member of Kiwanis for 60 years and was an early member of the Traverse Symphony Orchestra Board. He was the architect for the Congregational Church built in 1958, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, All Faiths Chapel at the Commons, and many other churches throughout Michigan. He also designed T.C. Central High School, West Junior High, St. Francis High School and many schools throughout northern Michigan. Also included in over 700 design projects are the local City-County Building, early area hospitals and many local residences. He and Jean supported and contributed to the Grand Traverse Area Community Sailing (TACS) Boathouse with hopes of encouraging the love of sailing.
Lewy Walton began working as the president and GM of the Traverse City Canning Company upon his move to northern Michigan. The TCCC purchased and processed regional cherries for distribution to the greater reaches of the Midwest. Lewy helped encourage many local and regional farmers to broaden their planting and growth of other fruit crops, such as peaches and plums, in order to lengthen the year of production. Helen and Lewy were also avid concert-goers and loved the music and social scenes of Traverse City in the 1950s and 60s.
Abby’s mom, Nancy Cornwell Walton, attended elementary school, junior high, and high school in Traverse City. After returning to Traverse City with Abby’s dad in 1974 to raise their children, she opened Toy Harbor in 1984 to provide downtown Traverse City with a missing resource for creative and quality toys. Still a fixture on Front Street, she owns and operates it today.
Abby’s dad, L. Kent Walton, also attended elementary school, junior high, and high school in Traverse City. He was active in the Coast Guard from 1970-1974 when he returned to Traverse City with his wife to raise their children. It was then that he began his own law practice on South Union Street. In 1985, he and his law partners moved their practice, Walton, Smith, Phillips & Dixon, P.C., into what was the Ladies Library Building next to Central United Methodist Church on Cass Street, just South of State Street.
It is with gratitude and appreciation that we, as Traverse City business people, local community members, and parents uphold and honor our family’s work, commitment, and love for our community with our own.