APRIL 10 COMPETITION MERGES MUSIC, SPORTS, MURKY WATER
When the Brooklyn Folk Festival returns to St. Anne's Church in April,
it'll include what's become one of the annual event's most popular
traditions: the legendary banjo toss.
"The banjo toss is a world famous epic event, looked forward to by
millions desperate for catharsis!," jokes festival founder and producer
Eli Smith, who first launched the first Brooklyn Folk Festival in 2009. A
longtime banjo player himself, Smith also performs with the Down Hill
Strugglers, an old-time string band that will perform at the Brooklyn
Folk Festival with special guest John Cohen.
Hailed by The Associated Press for giving "new meaning to the term heavy
metal," the banjo toss takes place at the Gowanus Canal, a waterway
that once served as a major transportation route for Brooklyn's
factories, tanneries and mills. Taking place on Sunday, April 10th
— the final afternoon of the three-day festival, most of which takes
place at St. Anne's Church on Montague Street — the event brings dozens
of competitors to the canal's shoreline in South Brooklyn, with all
participants taking turns throwing a banjo into the murky water. The
farthest toss wins, with last year's prize-winning throw measuring a
whopping 85 feet. Winners take home a free banjo.
Here's a video recap of the 2015 festival that includes footage of the banjo toss.
The banjo toss also brings some needed attention to the Gowanus Canal,
whose once-busy waters have become the source of pollution over the past
half-century. In the years immediately following World War I, it was
America's busiest commercial canal, with more than six million tons of
cargo being shipped along its waters every year. With all that activity
came a severe level of contamination, though. There isn't much
recreation alongside the canal these days, making the banjo toss all the
more unique. Rubber gloves are provided for contestants.
This year's banjo toss will take place at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 10th,
with all competitors and onlookers encouraged to meet at the
intersection of Smith and 9th Street before parading with a live banjo
toss jug band band to the so-called "banjo tossing arena."