There is no shortage of opportunities to take advantage of (free) entertainment in The City. Festivals, musical entertainment, street performers, sponsored events, public art and open galleries are almost always available if you just take a few minutes to do the research.
Last night we spent such an evening in Bryant Park.
First, let me share a bit about the park itself.
It is historical. It was first designated a public space in 1686. Ninety years later George Washington and his troops retreated across this space during a battle of the revolutionary war. In the 1800’s it was used as a potter’s field, then bodies were moved and it became a park. During the Civil War, it was used for military drills, later it fell into disrepair. In the ‘70’s it was the site of Vietnam war protests, and eventually eroded into a ground for drugs, prostitutes and other crimes.
A restoration effort in the 1980’s brought new elements to the park, including restaurants, bookstores and flower shops. It reopened in the early 1990s, benefitting from funding and support of private donors. Today it is a beautiful park with a great lawn, beautiful plantings, statues, tall trees a carousel and a reading room. It is anchored on the east by the main branch of the public library. It is safe, beautiful and the frequent venue for public events.
Each year the park hosts a slate of culture and entertainment, free to the public. This year’s presentations include: Accordions from around the world, 3 Shakespeare plays, 7 Wednesday dance parties (swing, disco, salsa, polka, cumbia, Mexican and Latin), 4 Opera presentations, 5 ballets, Friday picnics from May – September, and a variety of emerging and fuse music reviews. Impressive.
The atmosphere for these programs is casual and relaxed. A few rows of chairs are circled around a stage. The lawn is open for those who chose to bring a blanket. Kids play, lovers recline, and food is shared. Just outside the lawn are small tables and folding chairs airs mostly occupied by people watchers, readers and artists.
We attended In/ter\sect, a fuse of jazz and classical music. As we sat observing the flow of people and listening to the music, we watched daylight change to dusk as the sun cast a golden glow on the tall buildings surrounding the park. A cool breeze swept in and blew a few falling leaves our way. The first hint that summer is passing.
This is why I love New York.