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Posts Tagged ‘Gowanus Canal’

April 30th, 2017 – It’s early afternoon on a Sunday when a small group of people starts to gather around a jug band playing near the Smith–Ninth Street subway station exit. Eli Smith, the co-founder of the Brooklyn Folk Festival and long time banjo player, welcomes everybody to this year’s edition of the Banjo Toss Competition, one of the most anticipated events of the three-day folk festival. The jug band leads the parade from the corner of Smith-Ninth Street to the Gowanus Canal, a federally designated Superfund site also known as the Brooklyn’s nautical purgatory. For everyone attending this ritual, throwing the banjo furthest into the canal feels less like a competition and more like a moment of catharsis. Nevertheless, the banjo toss champion wins a brand new banjo. As a precaution, plastic gloves are provided to each participant to avoid contact with the polluted waters. Next, the banjo tossers test their throwing techniques, evaluate wind conditions, the jug band sets the rhythm, and the banjo finally makes its dive into the waters of the Gowanus Canal.

Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn

Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn

In this radio piece, Eli Smith guides us through the Banjo Toss, explaining its origins and mythos. Smith is a banjo player, writer, radio host, researcher and promoter of folk music. You can find more about his work and music here. Or visit the Brooklyn Folk Festival and the Jalopy Theatre & School of Music.

Brooklyn Folk Festival 2017

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