Washington Square Park Folk Festival Returns for Year Two at WSP This Weekend (9/15 & 16, 2012)


For the second year in a row, the Washington Square Park Folk Festival will take place for 2 days at the park this coming weekend on September 15th and 16th. I spoke to Eli Smith, the organizer, a musician and host of the Down Home Radio Show who also produces the Brooklyn Folk Festival (now in year four) about the upcoming festival at the park and year two!

This is your second year doing the festival at Washington Square Park. What did you learn from last year?

I thought it went great. I felt it could have been bigger. Last year, we had 9 bands; this year we have 13. We’ll set out more chairs! (laughs)

(Ed. note: Last year, there was a bit of a chair issue. There did not seem to be many set out!)

When did you find out you got the go ahead for year 2?

They told me right away after the first festival that they wanted it to continue. I was relieved when I checked in six months later to find out that it was [definitely] confirmed.

Rebecca Ferguson, the Park Administrator, whose idea the festival was, recently left her position. How has that impacted things?

She was super cool and kept on it as her final project of the park.

The folk music I saw last year was a bit more blue grass and string-oriented than perhaps what some think of when they hear the term “folk music.” Some might consider it to be a bit more “pop” such as the music associated with artists like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, for example. Are there different types of what is considered “folk” music?

Folk music is a very wide, expansive genre. With [advent of] Bob Dylan {and his success], seemingly anyone who wrote their own songs was considered folk music. in my mind, folk is the more traditionalist, old-time string and blues as well as some wonderful and talented singer-songwriters. The festival will have something for everybody – a wide range of what people think of as folk music and think of as Washington Square Park. We’ll also have some venerable performers with a history in Washington Square Park including Tracy Schwarz and Ginny Hawker. Schwarz played in WSP with the New Lost City Ramblers in the ’50s and ’60s. John Cohen, also of the New Lost City Ramblers, has a history at the park as does Randy Byrnes who played in the park in the ’60s and ’70s. The festival will feature those with a history of performance associated with the park as well as young talent from the city.

You have a lot of different sponsors for the festival, including Mario Batali. How did that come about?

Becky [Rebecca Ferguson] took care of that from her connections from Washington Square Park. Of course, Matt Umanov from Matt Umanov Guitars was the one who first recommended me to do the festival [last year]. Also, the Washington Square Hotel and Mario Batali Foundation. It’s super nice of them to kick in like that. I heard that Mario Batlai lives in the area of the park and is super into music. I started buying his pasta sauce.

I didn’t know he had a pasta sauce. Where do you buy it?

I buy it at Fairway. (laughs) I think he stopped by one day last year. (segues)

I also was contacted by Occupy Wall Street as there’s going to be an Occupy Wall Street Action at the same time on Saturday. We’re trying to give each other space.

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Stop by Saturday, September 15th * 2-8 p.m. and Sunday, September 16th * 1- 8 p.m. It’s free!

There is further description of the Festival at the Parks Department web site and a breakdown of the performances at the Festival’s site.

This Blog on last year’s festival!