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.
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
3:15pm Ben Paley
4pm Square Dance! – Alex Kramer caller
Come on down!
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