Washington Square Park Folk Festival Returns for 9th Year This Sunday, September 8th

square dance washington square park folk festival
The Washington Square Park Folk Festival first took place at the park in 2011. Now an annual event, it was the brainchild of previous WSP Administrator Rebecca Ferguson. Working for the NYC Parks Department, Ferguson had the idea of holding a folk music event in the park, with a nod to the esteemed history of music in Washington Square. Ferguson produced the event by first connecting with Matt Umanov of the venerated Greenwich Village guitar shop (the physical store has since closed but they maintain a web site where they sell guitars and offer “guitar restoration and repair” by appointment) who introduced her to Eli Smith. Smith organized the first and subsequent festivals and has continued his involvement in the event each year.

Ferguson left the job (quietly) in 2012 — but the Folk Festival has continued on. This year it again takes place at the park’s Garibaldi Plaza on Sunday, September 8th from 1 – 5 p.m. There is a Square Dance! And it′s free!

From this blog, Year One interview with organizer Eli Smith in 2011 introducing the Folk Festival:

This weekend there’s a new music event at the park, the Washington Square Park Folk Festival. The two day event, which began yesterday, is being produced by Eli Smith, organizer of the Brooklyn Folk Festival in Red Hook for the last three years and host of the Down Home Radio Show. The festival was the idea of WSP administrator Rebecca Ferguson who learned of Smith upon asking Matt Umanov — of the eponymous famous guitar shop on Bleecker Street — for a recommendation of someone to produce the show.

In putting together the event, Smith, who grew up in the Village on Barrow Street, said he “tried to bring in musicians who had a history with Washington Square Park.” The festival features musicians such as John Cohen and Peter Stampfel who “have been playing music in Washington Square Park since the 1950′s” as well as newer musicians who have busked in the park. The goal was for a “diversity of sounds and good stuff.”

Eight years later, the Washington Square Park Folk Festival has been scaled down a bit since then; it is on one Sunday afternoon again this year.

Presented by:

The Jalopy Theatre & School of Music:

The 9th annual festival is scheduled for Sunday September 8th, 2019.

The folk fest is free and open to the public!

1pm Eli Smith

1:45pm Four o’Clock Flowers

2:30pm Miriam Elhajli and Nueva Canción

3:15pm Ben Paley

4pm Square Dance! – Alex Kramer caller


Come on down!

The original poster from 2011 had pigeons on the Arch!
The original poster from 2011 had pigeons on the Arch!

Link to WSP Folk Festival official page.

Previous coverage at Washington Square Park Blog (interviews with Eli Smith):

Washington Square Park Folk Festival – Interview with Organizer Eli Smith | Photos from First Day September 18, 2011

Washington Square Park Folk Festival Returns for Year Two at WSP This Weekend (9/15 & 16, 2012) September 13, 2012

Spread the love

8 thoughts on “Washington Square Park Folk Festival Returns for 9th Year This Sunday, September 8th”

  1. Does anyone know what has happened to Peter May, the acoustic guitarist who always wore a cap and covered rock songs by Bowie, Beatles etc.?
    He was a daily fixture at south entrance of Washington Square Park at Thompson St.
    Haven’t seen him this year, and we miss you Pete!

    • Hi Valeri,

      I’m so sorry to say that I believe he died recently and had been sick before that. It’s nice of you to ask. It’s sad.


      • Thank you Cathryn for letting me know.
        Peter was a wonderful person, I’m so very sorry that he was ill and has passed. I think of him on my walk through that path and will always continue to do so.
        If you are able to find out the date of his passing, I will put up his photo with flowers at his performance spot on that day in his honor.
        I’m sure there are many folks who wonder about his absence.

  2. I know this is a very late reply to your question about the date of his death, but it was October 23rd, 2018. And yes, he is missed by many. He had a smile for everyone.

  3. Thank you, Susan, so much for providing the date – one year ago today. And Valeri, such a nice idea. I hope you see this. A park regular who knew Peter said they would find out the date but I never heard back. Apologies. I’m glad that Susan saw this.


    • Oh wow, thanks Susan & Cathryn for that information on Peter May.
      Hard to believe it’s been more than a year since we’ve seen his smile.
      We see so many aspects of our daily lives go by the wayside here, but Peter’s passing is a reminder of what we really miss, when we lose a good soul amongst us.

    • hi Cathryn, when I saw yr note last evening I did run out and taped up flowers with a photo of Peter at his performance spot. I took a photo but unable to post image here I believe?
      Anyhow, I was there for just ten minutes and in that time a few people stopped & spoke of him, it was a lovely impromptu tribute! Unfortunately someone took it all down since. but, he had a moment:). best, Valeri

      • Hi Valeri,

        That is so lovely and amazing. You can email me at: cathryn @ washingtonsquareparkblog.com .

        I don’t know much about Peter … If you or Susan have a sentence or two about him, that would be so nice but park musician for many (?) years works as well!

        Thanks for honoring him in that way.



Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: