It was banj-demonium!
An annual competition to see who can hurl a banjo farthest into the Gowanus Canal came un-strung on Sunday afternoon, after neighbors called the cops, and the five-stringed instrument then hit a tree and broke free from its tether, floating off into Brooklyn’s Nautical Purgatory. The snafu brought the contest to an abrupt end, but an organizer said all the drama made it one for the books.
“It was crazy, it was a year of firsts,” said Eli Smith of the Brooklyn Folk Festival, a three-day musical extravaganza in Brooklyn Heights that culminates in the strong-arm contest.
The fest has been organizing the banjo toss for eight years, but this year nearby residents called the police after the competitors paraded from Smith and Ninth streets to its traditional arena on the Second Avenue side of the Ninth Street Bridge.
The horde of folk athletes traveled to the other side of the canal before things could heat up, and when police arrived, they okayed the new location, Smith said.
Around 60 contestants still had the opportunity to heave the icon of Americana into the canal — accompanied by a live jug band — before the instrument broke free.
Organizers still anointed winners for the men’s and women’s categories, and both champions took home brand-new banjos, unsullied by the fetid waterway.
Smith said a friend who owns a canoe is now searching the canal for the missing banjo — which has been used in the competition for the past five years — and is optimistic it will turn up.
“We still hope to recover it,” he said. “There’s not a strong current so I think it’s out there and it can maybe still be found.”
Next year, Smith says he will secure the banjo with a better knot.