Brooklyn Folk Pageant returned to St. Ann’s Church for his or her thirteenth 12 months over the weekend, and people with out a lot musical talent nonetheless had the possibility to get their fingers on an instrument at the pageant’s annual banjo toss.
The pageant was based in 2008 by musician and pageant director Eli Smith and the Jalopy Theatre & Faculty of Music with the objective of capturing the vitality of a people pageant you would possibly attend in a rural space, mentioned Lynette Wiley, Jalopy’s govt director. To that finish, people followers take pleasure in three days of music from all around the world, workshops, dancing, and extra.
In the course of the pageant’s third 12 months at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition in Purple Hook, Smith got here up with the concept of seeing how far individuals may toss a banjo into the water, Wiley mentioned. Her husband, Geoff, Jalopy’s co-founder, retrofitted a banjo that they had so it was stable and waterproof, and tied a rope to it with a knot tied each foot to measure the gap of every throw.
“I think Eli is really good at absurdist thought, and it just seemed like a really funny thing to do, so we’ve just kept it up all these years,” Wiley mentioned.
And so the toss was born, bringing a brand new definition to the time period “banjo hitter.”
“The men’s heat winner was 69 feet and the women’s heat winner was 63 feet, if memory serves,” Wiley mentioned. Every winner takes residence a free — and, importantly, dry — banjo.
The pageant additionally introduced again a pandemic necessity — the banjo toss video game. From Nov. 8-14, gamers may publish screenshots of their farthest digital throws in a bid to win an actual life instrument of their very personal.
Even choosing up the banjo is collaborating within the pageant’s historical past, as they’re nonetheless utilizing the one Geoff bolstered all these years in the past.
“We’ve had people be upset that we are hurting multiple banjos, I’m like, ‘No, no, this is one banjo that we’ve used for years and years and every year it has to be rebuilt a little bit’,” Wiley mentioned. “But we’ve just sacrificed one banjo.”
Only one small a part of the pageant – and never even the preferred one — the toss has picked up nationwide media attention through the years, and as soon as it was picked up by the wire providers, the story of the banjo toss was even picked up in Dublin.
“It is ridiculous, and it is also so much fun,” Wiley mentioned, as to why it will get a lot consideration. “We had a strong environmental theme to the folk festival this year, and to be standing at the Gowanus Canal, and we have to put rubber gloves on everyone, and we’ve got hand sanitizer. My husband gets a little sick every year just from touching that water so much.”
Bringing consideration to the canal’s Superfund standing and ongoing cleanup is vital, she mentioned, as patrons collect at the house of the Gowanus Dredgers, a bunch based to advocate for cleansing as much as the contaminated water physique.
This 12 months’s pageant was somewhat bit smaller, Wiley mentioned, and so they needed to take out a number of the parts she loves most to make it secure for everybody attending. However that didn’t make gathering once more for the primary time since 2019 any much less vital.
“To see everyone again, to greet all of the people that were coming to this festival for all these years, to be in the space with the artists, it was so wonderful,” she mentioned. “It felt like life was beginning again in a new way.”