By Grant Lefeler, Development Intern

Bradley Temple’s songbird-in-residence, ChipRichter, has been a local musical staple since he began leading God Squad, Lakeside’s children’s ministry, in 1995.

After 28 summers of fun, laughter, and faith, Richter is looking to expand God Squad’s reach through a new online streaming show for children of all ages (and the young at heart, too). Entitled “Once Upon a Porch,” Richter hopes to grow God Squad into a year-round multimedia experience come next summer season.

Richter, a veteran songwriter who has been writing and performing Christian music for audiences both young and old since the 1970s, has recently made steps to take his one-of-a-kind interactive live shows to online audiences. The “Once Upon a Porch” project has been over 10 years in the making, stemming from Richter’s dream to expand God Squad and the Lakeside experience to a wider audience year-round.

Yet, “Once Upon a Porch” will not be Richter’s first foray into streaming content for the whole family. Soon after the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, Richter launched “Lunch with Mr.Chip” on his YouTube channel, a live-streamed show where Richter performed his singular inspirational songs for both kids and adults. Taking lessons from the positive experience of his live-streamed show, Richter hopes to enhance the production value for “Once Upon a Porch.”

Based on Richter’s current God Squad lessons for kids about how to have fun while learning about their Christian faith, “Once Upon a Porch” will take place on Richter’s familiar stage at Bradley Temple, complete with a set of a large, Victorian-style front porch, modeled after the porches that adorn the cottages of Lakeside. With a current plan to release a total of 10 episodes starting in January 2023, it is Richter’s hope that he can continue the God Squad experience outside of the summer season through the power of video.

Richter is not shy about his influences either.“I am super inspired by Mr. Rogers,” he said.“One thing I have truly modeled after Fred Rogers is that the Mr. Rogers people saw on TV was the same Mr. Rogers who existed in real life.”

Richter’s desire to bring his own personality to his performances, just as he does with God Squad, will continue with the new show. He will also be helped by several familiar supporting characters, such as his cast of puppets and Surfer Dave.

“Once Upon a Porch” will not be a substitute for God Squad, but rather the beloved family program will remain “the heart and center of it all,” said Richter. The new show “will be adding to what has been planted, built and nurtured all these years.”

Families can expect to see Richter and God Squad return for many years to come. Currently, Richter and Lakeside Chautauqua’s plan is to start construction on a permanent, professional set at Bradley Temple in September with filming scheduled to begin around October.

In addition to “Once Upon a Porch” streaming, you can bring Lakeside’s magic home to your own community. With a mission and vision to share joy throughout the year, Lakeside and Richter are working together to take “Once Upon a Porch” on the road around Ohio and beyond. Each energetic and interactive performance features 60-75 minutes of high-energy music and story-telling combined with messages of hope, acceptance, kindness, love, and joy. All venue sizes are welcome– whether it be a church, school, or community venue. Performances can be extended to include workshops and other customized programming.

If you want to bring Once Upon a Porch to your hometown, Contact Jeannie Fleming-Gifford, Lakeside Chautauqua V.P. of Programming, at jeannie@lakesideohio.com or (419) 798-4461, ext. 110. More details on Chip Richter and “Once Upon a Porch” can be found at lakesideohio.com/porch